Gary Lineker leads fury after 'tone deaf' James Cleverly tells LGBT fans to 'compromise' at Qatar World Cup

26 October 2022, 11:40 | Updated: 26 October 2022, 16:41

Gary Lineker, James Cleverly, England football team
Gary Lineker has hit out at James Cleverly over his advice to gay football fans. . Picture: Alamy/Getty/LBC

By James Hockaday

Gary Lineker has hit out at James Cleverly after he suggested LGBT football fans attending the World Cup in Qatar should be "respectful of the host nation".

Earlier the foreign secretary told LBC's Nick Ferrari that authorities in the Middle Eastern country are willing to make "some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own".

But he also suggested LGBT fans should subdue their behaviour, adding: "I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be safe and secure."

He also took a swipe at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, dismissing his boycott of the games in Qatar, and saying he would attend, adding: "As leader of the opposition he's in a lovely position to send messages, I've got real work to do."

English former footballer Mr Lineker criticised the remarks, tweeting: "Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?"

James Cleverly's vicious jibe at Mr Starmer: 'I've got real work to do'

Describing Mr Cleverly's advice as "shockingly tone deaf", shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: "Sport should be open to all.

"Many fans will feel they can’t attend this tournament to cheer on their team because of Qatar’s record on human, workers, and LGBT+ rights.

"The Government should be challenging FIFA on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of all fans attending, not defending discriminatory values."

Liberal Democrats MP Layla Moran said: “The World Cup should be a celebration of the beautiful game, instead it’s being used by countries like Qatar to sport-wash their atrocious human rights records.

"Any UK officials who attend should be using their position to highlight human rights abuses, not endorsing the regime."

Read more: Keir Starmer will refuse to go to the World Cup in Qatar because of human rights - even if England get to the final

Read more: 'Shame on FIFA': Peter Tatchell hits out at World Cup organisers in Qatar protests

It comes after veteran LGBT activist Peter Tatchell claimed he was arrested on Tuesday in Qatar for staging a protest agains the regime.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and punishable by up to three years in prison - and even the death sentence for Muslims, although there are no verified cases of anyone being executed for being gay in Qatar.

But Mr Tatchell said that by attending the World Cup, Mr Cleverly is "colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime" and said he should instead "highlight the abuses" it has carried out.