Visit Saudi Message To LGBTQ Players And Fans Is Tonal

When I played for the Matildas in the inaugural FIFA women’s tournament in 1988, it was inconceivable that a wealthy tourism board could pay a staggering amount to capture the attention of the crowd watching us. Incidentally, this audience consisted of several thousand Chinese school children.

Now FIFA is planning to make Visit Saudi a sponsor of the Women’s World Cup. Apparently the audience is ready for the harvest and demands a handsome price.

I have nothing against a long-overdue correction to the long-standing undervaluation of women’s sports fans. They’re younger, funkier, more value-driven, more loyal, and more digitally savvy than the average Joe six-pack in the stands or on the couch.

They create a very different atmosphere than men’s football. It’s safe, inclusive and non-violent – ​​nowhere is it better demonstrated than at the European Championships, held a year apart at Wembley, England. The crowd of men descended into chaos and hostility; The women’s final – with even more spectators – had zero fan problems.

After the game, rival English and German fans shared jokes and staged singing contests while waiting in nightclub lines, spurred on by otherwise redundant security guards. Curiously, the gender of the players playing the game seemed to have an outsized impact on viewer behavior.

Perhaps that’s because women’s football fans know and deeply feel a sense of safety, purpose and belonging around the sport they love. In particular, at the Women’s World Cup there will be many LGBTQ+ players and fans who see football as a place to express themselves. Many more will be watching from afar and will see players like Sam Kerr and Megan Rapinoe who are awesome, revered and gay all at the same time – on a team that accepts them for who they are.

Soccer stars Sam Kerr and Megan Rapinoe.

Soccer stars Sam Kerr and Megan Rapinoe. Credit:Getty

If any of these fans from Saudi Arabia are watching, they’re going to be taking big risks. The latest state-sponsored homophobia report by ILGA World – which campaigns for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people – lists Saudi Arabia as a country where “we have full legal certainty that the death penalty is the… statutory punishment is for consensual same-sex sexual activity”.

When FIFA tells LGBTQ players and fans to “visit Saudi,” they are sending them into a jurisdiction where they are considered criminals (and where all women face severely restricted rights, despite recent encouraging advances). FIFA would sell them to the persecution. It’s hard to imagine a greater disparity in the unique and valuable audience that women’s football has reached. Visit Saudi Message To LGBTQ Players And Fans Is Tonal

Ryan Sederquist

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