FIFA's Valcke Puts Pressure on Russia Over Anti-Gay Law
August 22, 2013
Russia sports minister Vitaly Mutko (Getty)
(WFI) One week after Russia 2018 CEO Alexey Sorokin made controversial comments to INSIDER defending his country’s anti-gay law, Jerome Valcke says FIFA will not tolerate any discrimination at the World Cup.
The law bans discussion and displays of so-called “non-traditional” relationships around minors. Symbols like rainbow flags and pins are also illegal. Under the law, athletes and spectators who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender could be jailed for 15 days and even deported during the World Cup for being "pro-gay”.
FIFA recently urged Russia to clarify how the law would be implemented for the World Cup. Introduced in June, the law has sparked global outrage, with calls to boycott or relocate the Sochi Games slated to open in February.
“We are waiting for this clarification, but we will for sure enter into a discussion with them and won’t accept any discrimination,” Valcke was quoted by Bloomberg as telling reporters in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s not just about the World Cup; it’s about every day.”
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who also heads the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, has said the legislation is to be enforced during the upcoming Olympics. But he claimed last week that the law “does not deprive any citizen of their rights, whether it's an athlete, a participant, an organizer or guests who may arrive in Russia”.
Valcke said FIFA would never change the site of the 2018 World Cup, claiming discussions about the law were ongoing with Russian authorities. "There’s no way FIFA will give up on our principles,” Valcke said.
Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the Russia 2018 organising committee, told INSIDER last week that the law “has been largely misinterpreted… it is designed against active propaganda of homosexuality, not against homosexuality itself. That is a big difference”.
But his additional comments provoked a global outcry.
“Would you like a World Cup where naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious,” Sorokin said, triggering a backlash from gay rights activists and the LBGT community at large.
He added: “The Olympics and World Cup are not a stage for various views... not for Nazis, not for any other ways of life. It should be about football and nothing else.”
At the IAAF world athletics championships 13 days ago, IOC president Jacques Rogge was asked to take a position on Russia’s anti-gay law, which is casting a shadow over the build-up to the Sochi Games.
He said the IOC was seeking clarifications about how the law would be enforced to gauge the impact on athletes and fans visiting Russia for the Winter Olympics.
The IOC president today confirmed in a short statement that “strong written reassurances” had come from the Russian government “that everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation”.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
Your best source of news about the global football business is World Football INSIDER
Get Free WFI news bulletins Click Here
(Copyright 1992 - 2013, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of World Football Insider and Around the Rings, Inc.)