Some of the hotels on Fifa’s official list for the World Cup in Qatar later this year said that they would not accept gay guests, and asked potential customers to adjust their behaviour, according to an investigation.
Journalists working for media groups in Sweden and Denmark had contacted 69 hotels, posing as a newly-wed gay couple, to see their reaction to a proposed reservation.
According to NRK, SVT in Sweden and DR in Denmark, three hotels would not accept the reservation, with one suggesting it would be against hotel policy to do so.
A further 20 hotels advised the couple to avoid public displays of affection during their stay.
Fifa and the local World Cup organisers have previously insisted that everyone is welcome at the tournament, despite homosexuality being illegal in Qatar.
Although 33 hotels on the Fifa list did accept a booking from the male couple, the investigation found one-third either did not accept the reservation or expressed concerns.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino insisted last year that “all are welcome in Qatar” and said that LGBTQ fans should attend the tournament and '”engage and speak and convince” during their stay. “We cannot think that if we stay home and just criticise things will change,” he said.
The investigation into the hotels began in March, with the journalists having not specified a date for their honeymoon when they contacted the hotels by email and telephone to enquire about hotel policy.
“Among the hotels that have answered no, one has answered by email,” said NRK. “The other two have answered the phone. In both cases where hotels have answered the phone, the person in question has conferred with colleagues / superiors before we have received an answer.”
One hotel reportedly replied: “I would like to inform you that we have previously had incidents where the police have picked up Qataris at the hotel who have had homosexual relationships.”
'You cannot change the religion for 28 days'
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, an official in the Qatari government, said last month LGBTQ fans would be welcome to book rooms during the tournament.
“Reserve the room together, sleep together - this is something that's not in our concern,” he said. “We are here to manage the tournament. Let's not go beyond, the individual personal things which might be happening between these people.”
Al Ansari, however, did counsel against overt promotion of LGBTQ freedoms. “If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to… but to protect him,” he told the Associated Press.
“Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him)... I cannot guarantee the behavior of the whole people. And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point’. We cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of World Cup.”
The tournament’s Q&A also specifically addressed the issue. “Are non-married friends of different genders or couples (including LGBTQ+) allowed to stay in the same room?” asks one of the questions. “Yes, there are no restrictions,” says the reply.
The UK government’s travel advice states that “homosexuality is illegal in Qatar” and warns that “any intimacy between persons in public can lead to offence, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or intent”.
The findings of the hotel investigation were shared with Fifa, who say that LGBTQ fans will be welcome in Qatar. “Fifa is confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBT + supporters, so that they, like everyone else, can feel welcome and safe during the championship,” said a spokesperson.