Will there be any risk for Russian and international fans belonging to LGBT community? What can we expect in terms of safety and freedom of expressions? Is it a good idea to bring the rainbow flag in the stadia? What will happen once the lights will be switched off? Many questions can rise up, to answer these questions isn’t necessarily simple.
“I think that the Police will prevent the aggressions against LGBT and any fans“, affirms Alexandr Agapov, President of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation. “They won’t approve the displaying of rainbow flag: they will politely ask not to use it, since only national flags will be allowed. The Police will protect the fans also on public transport. In other public spaces there could be more risks, especially in the Southern cities as Rostov or Sochi, where people might be more aggressive and behaving more harshly. In Moscow and Saint Petersburg there won’t be many problems”. Can you live a normal life in Russia? Agapov: “No. Normal life is not to hide who you are, not to be discriminated on your sexuality. Focus is too much on the bedroom story: there is no understanding that sexuality is wider than just sex. To be gay or lesbian doesn’t mean to promote it, it is just a fact. To be heterosexual is considered as normal therefore it is ok to be open about it. But if you are gay, then it is better not to say, since people can feel to have the power to silence you and to tell you not to show your identity, otherwise it is propaganda. The backup is the anti-gay legislation, sometimes used also if there are just adults and not children”.
Is the discrimination present also in sport? Agapov: “We feel discriminated because we pay higher prices for our events. In facts, we have to book two pitches, to make sure that no children will be around and we can display LGBT symbols”.
What will happen to LGBT Fans during the world cup? Lou Englefield, is the director of UK #LGBT Sports Development & Equity Organisation and PrideSportsUK: “Difficult question, I think that LGBT fans will be safe to certain extent. Russia will want to show to the world a good event. LGBT People will be made invisible to the local people: in case of rainbow flags, it won’t be on Russian TV. The LGBT people as individuals will have to make their own mind. I know few fans going from the UK, I want them to have the best time they can and behaving as in their own country, since they belong to the football family”. Will they bring the rainbow flag to the stadium? “In UK, it has become normal in the stadia. If LGBT fans want to express their visibility and highlight diversity of the global football family, then they should be able to bring flags and be as they are at home. The FIFA and Russian authorities will have the responsibility to ensure safety of LGBT people making themselves visible with simple symbols of community, not of the fans to censoring themselves.” Englefield concludes: “If the Russian Government wants to manipulate the situation, it is anyway capable to do so. So we have to live authentically and live our life”.
In fact, in terms of spinning the communications, a consistent presence of rainbow flag could be presented as signal of tolerance, while a complete absence could give the impression that the issue does not exist. “The legacy is the major question,” affirms Ronan Evain from Football Supporters Europe. “Our volunteers will be working with local volunteers after we will leave and the competitions will be over. We have the responsibility to keep on working in the country: it is good to put light on a country for few months, but we can’t stop from a moment to another”.