Up to 10,000 UK nationals are expected to travel to the World Cup in Russia. A report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, The FCO’s preparations for the 2018 World Cup, says that racist and/or homophobic intimidation, violence from hooligans and anti-British hostility are among the risks faced by those fans. The threat of violence by Russian football hooligans has been a ‘specific focus’ for the FCO’s preparations.
Fans' safety is a concern outside match days
The Committee notes the security measures that will be in place, the cross-governmental preparations by the FCO, and the efforts to provide additional consular support such as ‘mobile embassies’ in cities where England will play – on and around match days. But, although the FCO has not discouraged UK nationals from travelling, the Committee remains concerned about fans’ safety, particularly outside match days and in cities where England is not playing.
Raising awareness of risks
The expulsion of 23 UK diplomats, including staff preparing for the World Cup, may have dented the thoroughness of FCO preparations. Page views on a dedicated website are lower than expected and more must be done - in the short time available – to ensure fans are aware of the risks, and of the arrangements for match/non-match days at England and non-England games. The FCO must demonstrate it can act swiftly and decisively in fans’ interests should the situation demand it.
Safe passage for BAME and LGBT fans a particular concern
MPs remain particularly concerned about safe passage for BAME and LGBT football fans who already face additional risks of attack and persecution in a country whose government has taken “little action to combat homophobia” (FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Report 2016). The Committee’s Report calls for the FCO to set out the specific assurances it has received from Russian authorities on the safety of LGBT fans.
The Chair of Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, commented:
"The safety and security of UK fans visiting the 2018 World Cup is the responsibility of the Russian government. But the Foreign Office has a duty to offer consular support to all UK football fans making the trip to Russia. At this late stage, the FCO should be able to demonstrate it can communicate swiftly with all the fans who travel – from basic information announcements to security advice, if required.
"This includes BAME and LGBT fans. Vague reassurances from Foreign Office ministers have not been enough to reassure us that UK nationals will be safe, regardless of their background or sexual orientation. The FCO should provide as much information to fans as is possible in the short time still available. UK football fans must know how to manage the risks so that they are safe from the fear of violence.
"We will be cheering on the England team and we wish all fans and their hosts an enjoyable World Cup. We hope to hear good news from the FCO when they report back to us in September with their assessment of how the tournament went."