From Russia With Love

FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia (1)

Events at the World Athletics Championships have shone the spotlight on Russian law and the merits of the country hosting major sporting competitions. Actor Stephen Fry’s recent open letter called for them to be stripped of the Winter Olympics because of draconian homophobic laws just passed in the state. All this raises yet more questions about FIFA’s criteria for World Cup host nations as Robbie Duggan writes.

Russian President Vladmir Putin signed legislation in June 2013 that attempts to prevent “gay propaganda”, meaning no relationships can be promoted in Russia other than heterosexual ones. The ruling also does not allow protests for homosexual rights or any public displays of affection between the same sex.

The country’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the law will apply to athletes and spectators at the Sochi Winter Olympic games, due to take place next February.

FIFA-400x268Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) have expressed anxieties that the bill’s passing could be used as a way to discriminate against fans who are planning on attending World Cup games in 2018. The organisation states that people could be persecuted or arrested and even deported simply for displaying a rainbow flag.

After the World Cup is all over, we’re likely to see the same problem rear its ugly head again four years later when Qatar play hosts.

Apart from the political question this raises for FIFA, Russia is enduring its own difficulties with providing stadiums.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has allocated 2.9 billion rubles (€66.5 million) to seven regions for constructing stadiums for the 2018 event.

This money is to provide for design and survey work for the construction or renovation of seven stadiums for the tournament.

The funds will be shared between the regions of Mordovia, Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Sverdlovsk and Rostov. These cities are to host group matches during the finals.

The total budget for the World Cup in Russia is €15.1 billion. The development of stadiums is to receive €5.7 billion of this while the rest will be put toward much need improvements to the country’s transport infrastructure. Apart from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan, other host cities are very far behind the requirements of hosting an event of this scale.

The 2018 World Cup will be Russia’s first as host and will take place from June 8 to July 8, in 11 host cities. Ten of the 12 World Cup venues will be built from scratch.

Here’s an idea for FIFA. Maybe when assessing future World Cup host applications; why not take into account that it’s probably not a good idea to consider countries with poor human rights records? Maybe, seek assurances from applicants that all members of the footballing family will be made to feel both safe and welcome.

So, here’s to the next three World Cups:

Brazil 2014 is likely to be marred by protests outside the stadiums from locals expressing their anger at the amount of money being spent on hosting the tournament. We got a sneak preview of that at the Confederations Cup earlier this summer.

Russia 2018: We’ll have the problems of anti-gay laws. Recent football visitors to the country also raised concerns about the behaviour of the police.

Qatar 2022 has so much wrong with it that, only for FIFA’s stubbornness, this would surely be getting a re-vote. Between the heat and talk of a winter World Cup, the Arab state also raises issues with its own laws about homosexuality. The list goes on and on.

As the world’s focus intensifies on the host nations, so too does it fall on the sport’s governing body. The mass-protests in Brazil have shown that FIFA cannot simply turn a blind eye but the problems for the association will only increase when the World Cup band-wagon has left Rio de Janeiro next summer.

Folow Robbie Duggan on Twitter: @robbieduggan

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