LGBT Fans React As The World Cup Heads To Russia 

The 2018 World Cup is officially underway and football fans all over the world have gathered in Russia for the next month to watch and cheer on their favorite teams. But for fans who identify within the LGBT community, concerns for safety and acceptance have quickly arisen. 

Russia, a country known for outward expressions of hatred toward LGBT communities recently passed legislation that outlaws gay propaganda that includes banning children from receiving any information about homosexuality. Vitaly Milonov, a Russian politician attempted to halt the release of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, because a homosexual character was present in the film. And in 2017, the BBC reported that more than 100 gay and bisexual men were captured, tortured and beaten in an anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya. 

In light of the games, The Guardian reported that, “England football fans visiting Russia for the World Cup are at serious risk of homophobic, racist and anti-British attacks and have been offered only “vague reassurance” about their safety by the Foreign Office and police, MPs have warned.”

In contrast to these concerns, Russian Football Union official Alexei Smertin declared that there would be no ban on rainbow symbols in stadiums, and the World Cup organization has ensured fans that LGBT fans will not be targeted.

Regardless, the number of fans projected to attend the games is dramatically less than previous years. The Sun, a UK news company, projected roughly half of English fans who attended the last Cup, will be attending this year’s game, and many experts have argued it is because of Russia’s stance of LGBT communities. 

Fans have been encouraged to still attend the games, and Alexander Agapov, president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, is hoping LGBT fans will not only show up but show just how passionate they are about the games and the sport itself. He says, "Without visibility Russian media can continue to claim that there are no LGBT people in football, and no LGBT fans."