Up to 10,000 UK nationals are expected to travel to the World Cup in Russia. Those fans face a number of risks, including hooligan violence; attacks motivated by racism, homophobia or anti-British sentiment; and terrorist attacks. The threat of violence has been a “specific focus” for the FCO’s preparations. Despite an “unprecedented crackdown” on hooligan groups, we were told that the Russian authorities could not control those hooligans who operate at the margins. BAME and LGBT football fans face heightened risks.
The FCO considers the risks to fall short of the level at which it would be appropriate to advise against travel to the World Cup, but said that it would recommend not travelling if fans’ safety could not be guaranteed. We remain concerned about the safety of UK fans travelling to Russia—particularly in light of the expulsion of officials involved in the preparations—and call on the FCO to provide the information needed for people to make an informed decision about whether to go. Given the current volatility it is particularly important that the Government can communicate with UK fans during the tournament to give up-to-date advice. The numbers subscribed to the FCO’s travel advice seem worryingly low and, although there is now little time to do so, we urge the FCO to take additional steps to encourage UK fans to sign up for travel alerts.
The FCO has been leading cross-governmental preparations for the World Cup for more than two years and the Football Association told us it was “really pleased” with those preparations. We recognise the work of all those involved and we note the testimony that there will be additional consular support and rigorous security measures in place on match days in cities where England plays. However, we are particularly concerned about the safety of UK fans outside these times and places and call on the FCO to do more to make fans aware of the distinction between arrangements in place on match and non-match days and in England and non-England match cities.
There are limits to what the FCO can tell us about some of its concerns and preparations before the tournament. Following the World Cup, the FCO should report back to us by the end of September, setting out lessons learned. We regret that the World Cup is hosted by countries with poor human rights records. We also ask for the FCO’s report to set out how effectively FIFA’s new human rights conditions are operating and what further steps are needed.
Published: 8 June 2018