Qatar World Cup 2022: Wales footballers ‘free to speak out’ about Qatar human rights concerns

Qatar has a poor record with the treatment of migrant workers and homosexuality is illegal in the country. Credit: PA Images

Wales football players will be free to speak out about issues like migrant worker abuses and LGBTQ+ rights during the World Cup in Qatar, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) has said.

Mark Evans FAW’s head of international affairs told press at a meeting on Tuesday 1 November that players had been briefed on the host nation's human rights record.

He said members of the squad raised concerns they had and were told they had free rein to be outspoken about such topics during the tournament’s press conferences.

Wales manager, Rob Page, has already said the team captain will wear the 'One Love' armband in support of LGBTQ+ rights, regardless of whether Fifa officially approve it.

Mr Evans confirmed they had not yet heard back from football’s governing body yet on the armband matter, just weeks away from the start of the competition.

A “significant” number of FAW staff have chosen not to go to Qatar in person because of the country’s stance on gay rights.

“We had a briefing with players after the last game with Poland and they were told they will have a forum to speak on any topic they want during press conferences,” Mr Evans said.

“We are confirmed supporters of the One Love campaign and we’ll be wearing the arm bands.

“The team is determined to wear them.

“It’s very important to us,” he added.

Mr Evans said there are currently no plans to release a joint statement criticising Qatar’s actions or laws, as the Australian national team did last week, but said the team would be having a meeting on November 13 and that any decision could be taken then.

Hundreds of migrant workers died while carrying out construction projects in Qatar, much of which human rights organisations claim is in some way linked to World Cup infrastructure.

Homosexuality in Qatar is also illegal but authorities in the country have said that “everyone is welcome” at the World Cup.

Footballers with family, including wives and girlfriends, flying out to support them were also said to want to know more about policies around how women should behave and what they should wear.

“We have a WhatsApp group with the players where they can keep asking questions and we post news stories that pop up that we think that they should be aware of,” Mr Evans said.

Wales will face USA in their first match of the tournament on November 21. Credit: PA Images

“Some might choose to say something during press conferences, others won’t, it’s up to them.

“They like us want all the fans coming over to feel as safe and welcome as possible.”

Mr Evans said the team had close links with The Rainbow Wall, the team’s LGBTQ+ supporters group, and had been in communication with the organisation in the run-up to the World Cup.

He said a “significant” number of FAW staff had chosen not to go to Qatar in person because of the country’s stance on gay rights.

Mr Evans added: “The red wall have a proud reputation particularly with how inclusive they are and how they embrace other cultures.

“We will all be going out there with a positive outlook wanting to be a positive force during the World Cup.”

The tournament gets underway on November 20, with Wales facing USA in their first bout of the group stages on November 21.

Wales will also face Iran and England in Group B.

If they make it through the group stages, they will then take on either the runner-up or the winner of Group A - which could be one of Qatar, the Netherlands, Senegal or Ecuador.