Sean Ingle in Doha
Tue, 22 November 2022 at 12:20 pm
Incidents involving Football Association of Wales staff and Wales supporters having rainbow-coloured bucket hats confiscated before the Group B opener against the USA are being urgently investigated by authorities.
Fifa and the Qataris were in talks on the matter on Tuesday, where Fifa reminded their hosts of their assurances before the tournament that everyone was welcome and rainbow flags would be allowed.
The Guardian also understands Fifa is deeply concerned about several incidents around the match, including Welsh FA staff and fans being confronted by security for bringing the hats into the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium and a US fan with a rainbow flag being confronted on the metro.
The FAW also released a statement expressing its disappointment. “On Monday, Cymru returned to the 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 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.”
Those confronted included the former Wales footballer Prof Laura McAllister, a trustee of the FAW Trust and a past Fifa council candidate, who said it was a “small moral victory” that she managed to eventually get the hat into the stadium.
“I pointed out that Fifa had made lots of comments about supporting LGBT rights in this tournament and said to them that coming from a nation where we’re very passionate about equality for all people, I wasn’t going to take my hat off,” said McAllister, a professor of public policy at Cardiff University. “They were insistent that unless I took the hat off we weren’t actually allowed to come into the stadium.”
Others had to surrender their hats. The Rainbow Wall, a Welsh LGBTQ+ fans’ group, said on Twitter: “Not the men, just women. @FIFAcom ARE YOU SERIOUS!!”
Earlier the US journalist Grant Wahl said he was detained by security staff after he wore a rainbow shirt to the match. One security guard told him they were protecting him from fans inside who might have attacked him for wearing it.
It was also reported that a US supporter was threatened on the metro travelling to the stadium for carrying a small rainbow flag – with the aggressor threatening to “kill” the man because “that flag is banned in this country”.
Last week Gerdine Lindhout, Fifa’s head of experiential marketing and promotion, had promised that LGBTQ+ fans would be safe. Asked what her message would be to those wanting to bring rainbow flags into the fan festival, she smiled. “Go for it,” she said. “This event is all about celebration.”
Meanwhile, problems with Fifa’s ticketing app, which led to hundreds of England fans missing the start of their 6-2 victory over Iran, are yet to be fixed.
Some fans queued for paper tickets at a convention centre in Doha after realising that, having logged out of their app in the previous 24 hours, they could no longer gain access. It is understood these issues were still being worked on on Tuesday.