England’s Football Association has endorsed LGBT+ Pride flags at the World Cup in Russia, following concern over the treatment of the gay community at this year’s games.
It comes after human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was detained in Moscow on Wednesday and a gay couple were allegedly attacked in St Petersburg.
On Thursday, during the opening game of the 2018 World Cup between the host nation and Saudi Arabia, the president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Aleksandr Agapov, unfurled a rainbow flag.
The FA, the governing body of association football in England, has now officially backed the use of the Three Lions rainbow crest at England games.
An FA spokesperson said: “We have been building links with LGBT+ fan groups by using England home games as a focal point.
“We continue to support their good work across and back their use of a Three Lions rainbow crest at the England games at the FIFA 2018 World Cup.”
It is believed that rainbow-flag activism will take place next week when England plays their first match against Tunisia. A one-by-two-metre banner showing the Three Lions insignia redesigned in the rainbow colours of the LGBT+ Pride flag will be displayed during the match.
Di Cunningham, organiser of Three Lions Pride, an English LGBT football fan network, told The Daily Beast: “The FA definitely wants it to be seen and wants us to go,
“They have endorsed it. To create the banner we had to clear the use of the image’s rights with them. We will also be wearing specially designed scarves with the same design.
“Both have the FA’s endorsement. It’s a very limited run. We are not allowed to sell them or make any more of them. The FA wants the visibility and association with LGBTQ+ inclusion.”
Cunningham told the publication that “very few, a handful” of the group’s football fans were traveling to the World Cup because of safety fears.
On Thursday a gay couple from France were beaten up in St Petersburg, with one victim having to be taken to hospital, where doctors reportedly discovered he had a broken jaw and a brain contusion.
On Wednesday Tatchell spent nearly two hours in custody for staging a one-man protest near Red Square.
The 66-year-old was standing near the statue of Marshal Zhukov close to the Kremlin holding a poster which read: “Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people,” before several police officers moved in to apprehend him.
The human rights campaigner was released after spending one hour and 40 minutes in police custody, he said on Thursday.
Russia was recently ranked among the worst in Europe for gay rights.
Despite homosexuality being officially decriminalised in Russia in 1993, a more recent law banning “gay propaganda” has extended the state’s powers to arrest and detain people in the gay community, often on very dubious charges.
The Football Supporter’s Federation has released a special leaflet advising fans on how they can protect themselves during matches.
One of the main pieces of advice warns against travelling to areas of the North Caucus such as Chechnya, where authorities are accused of detaining and torturing gay men in unofficial prisons. No matches are set to be played in the area.
The advice also notes that going to the toilet is likely to be a issue for trans fans, suggesting they “judge the situation on a case by case basis”.
“If you do not feel safe, try and find a fellow fan to accompany you,” the guide reads. “If there is a disabled toilet and you are alone, that could be the safest option.”
Up to 10,000 Brits are expected to make the journey to Russia for the month-long tournament.