World Cup: Treatment of UK fans being 'closely monitored' following rainbow bucket hat ban

Former Wales captain Laura McAllister was among those who said they were told to remove their rainbow hat because it was “a banned symbol”.

The treatment of UK fans in Qatar is being "closely monitored" after the authorities tried to remove rainbow bucket hats from Wales supporters during the World Cup.

When Wales faced USA in their opening game of the tournament on Monday evening, reports began to emerge of ticket-holders having their rainbow branded items confiscated as they tried to enter the stadium.

Supporters claimed they were told it was a "banned symbol" despite Fifa previously saying rainbow-coloured flags and clothing were not prohibited in stadiums.

Same-sex relationships are outlawed in the Gulf state but the host nation's organisers had repeatedly said "all are welcome" in the run-up to the competition.

The hats were designed in partnership with Wales’ LGBT+ football organisation the Rainbow Wall, alongside the FAW, to promote inclusion and equality in the sport.

Amongst those asked to take off their rainbow bucket hat were former Wales International footballer Laura McAllister and FAW staff.

Ms McAllister said she was furious at being told to take her hat off but told ITV it was important to "stick to our values".

Asked about the incident, the prime minister's official spokesperson said LGBT rights are a "fundamental part of the United Kingdom."

They said, "Obviously it’s not the approach that this Government would take if we were hosting any tournament.

“We have raised concerns about LGBT visitors with the Qatari authorities at all levels leading up to the tournament and obviously we will continue to monitor it carefully.”

He added: “We will monitor carefully UK fans in the region and how they are treated and obviously people are going there to enjoy a football tournament, first and foremost, and we are confident that’s what the Qataris will want to be focused on as well, facilitating people supporting their teams.”

Speaking to ITV News after the incident, McAllister said, "I think we've had plenty of warning that this wasn't going to be a World Cup where human rights, LGBT rights and women's rights were well respected, really".

"But coming from a nation like Wales, we were very keen that we still took a stand."

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) said it is "extremely disappointed" to hear that officials tried to confiscate the merchandise.

The Welsh Government also said it will “take on board” a call from Plaid Cymru’s leader to show solidarity with fans being refused entry.

Adam Price said Welsh ministers and officials attending next week’s Wales-England World Cup clash should wear the one-love armband. 

Lesley Griffiths MS, standing in for Mark Drakeford at FMQ's, agreed that it was “unacceptable” for fans to be refused entry for wearing rainbow bucket hats.

She said that ministers would “take on board” the Plaid leader’s suggestion. 

The statement released by the FAW said it was currently collecting information on alleged incidents and would be addressing them directly with Fifa on Tuesday.

The FAW said: “On Monday, Cymru returned to the Fifa World Cup for the first time in 64 years, an historic moment for the squad, the valued fans – the Red Wall / Y Wal Goch – and the nation.

“However, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) were extremely disappointed by reports that members of Y Wal Goch, which included FAW staff members, were asked to remove and discard their Rainbow Wall bucket hats before entry to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

"These bucket hats were created in partnership with the FAW.

“The FAW has collated information on these alleged incidents and will be addressing this matter directly with Fifa today (November 22).

"The FAW will not be releasing any further comment at this stage.”

The bucket hat has become an unofficial Wales fan uniform staple, with the rainbow variation a symbol of support for LGBTQ+ rights. Credit: PA Images

On Monday, the Rainbow Wall confirmed that they had heard multiple reports of fans in Qatar wearing the rainbow bucket hats and being ordered to remove them or face being denied entry to the game.

It comes as FIFA faces growing scrutiny over its treatment of LGBT+ football fans at this tournament and after threatening to dish out yellow cards to players wearing the 'OneLove' armbands.