Why some Birmingham bars are boycotting the World Cup over Qatar's LGBT stance

Football fans across the country flooded bars, pubs and venues for England's opening World Cup match against Iran. Credit: PA Images

As millions of football fans across the country headed to the bars and pubs for England's opening match in the World Cup, some venues in Birmingham were empty in a display of solidarity against Qatar's stance on human rights and homosexuality.

The Village and The Loft in Birmingham's gay village - run by Lawrence Barton - are two of those venues that have chosen not to show the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 over the next four weeks.

Despite the venues drawing in 600 football fans on match days, Mr Barton said he couldn't endorse it in any way, shape or form.

"I'm absolutely outraged that the World Cup is in Qatar in the first place, especially given the human rights issues that are affecting the LGBTQI community. It's 2022 and if you're a gay Muslim over there, you can be sentenced to death," he said.

"If I visit, I can be arrested, detained and imprisoned, simply for being gay. So there's no way I can show the games."

"In my venues, I'd have 600 people in watching the football, so it wasn't an easy decision to make. But it was a no-brainer. I could not endorse it in any way, shape or form."

Mr Lawrence said that he knows that not all other LGBTQI venues will be able to follow suit, as the nighttime industry still struggles to bounce back following the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "I realise it's quite difficult in the industry at the moment. We're all struggling to get back on our feet after coronavirus, and working through the financial crisis. I recognise not everyone can make the decision they'd like to make and I'm only glad I'm able to."

Football fans gathered in Velvet Music Rooms on Broad Street to watch England's opening match at the World Cup. Credit: Westside BID

Elsewhere in the city, thousands braved the torrential rain and poured into venues showing the World Cup.

The general manager of Westside Business Improvement District (BID), Mike Olley, said venues in areas including around Broad Street and Brindley Place had successfully drawn thousands of extra customers through their marketing of the live World Cup matches - despite some not showing the matches for what he said were "daft reasons".“On a Monday afternoon – traditionally a quiet period for any bar – we’ve seen thousands of customers visiting our area to watch and celebrate England’s victory," said Mr Olley. “I know there are a few pubs in Birmingham supposedly banning the World Cup for all sorts of daft reasons, but here on Westside we will always make sure that sport, with all the goodwill and understanding it brings, is available for all to enjoy.”  

One of those venues showing the match was Velvet Music Rooms on Broad Street.

Co-owner Dani Hadley said: “We were delighted to host a good, steady flow of customers from the minute we opened.“Many told us they had taken the day off work to watch the match, and so we’re looking forward to welcoming them back to watch England’s next matches against the USA and Wales.”

What are Qatar's homosexuality laws?

Same-sex relationships are forbidden in Qatar under Islamic Sharia law.

Qatari law calls for a prison sentence of one to three years for "inducing or seducing a male or a female in any way to commit illegal or immoral actions".

Men and women can face action under the Penal Code 2004, which criminalises same-sex activity and leads to heavier sentences of up to seven years in jail.

Qatar adopts an interpretation of Sharia law which can even lead to same-sex relationships being punished with the death penalty.