The FCO’s preparations for the 2018 World Cup Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Risks to UK nationals

1.Russia presents particular risks as a World Cup host, due to the history of violence by football hooligans; intolerance and discriminatory state policy towards LGBT individuals; the history of racist abuse in and around football matches; current heightened political tensions; and the threat of terrorist attacks. We remain concerned about the safety of UK fans travelling to Russia, and the apparent lack of specific provisions to protect targeted groups, particularly LGBT football fans. (Paragraph 17)

2.The Committee calls on the FCO to set out, clearly and publicly, the specific assurances it has received from the Russian authorities on the safety of LGBT fans, including on how the “anti-propaganda” law will be applied to foreign visitors, so that fans can make an informed decision based on the level of risk to which they will be exposed. LGBT fans should have as much information as possible on the extent to which they can expect to be safe if, for example, flying the rainbow flag, engaging in public displays of affection, or using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. (Paragraph 18)

The FCO’s preparations

3.We note the evidence of the preparations for the World Cup that the FCO has been making over the last two years, and the testimony that UK-Russian co-operation on this point has been continuing post-Salisbury. We recognise the work of officials and others involved in these preparations, particularly those diplomatic staff who have remained in Russia following the expulsions and their colleagues who had to leave as a result of those expulsions. We believe it was wrong for the Russian government to expel British diplomats, particularly the officials leading on preparations and the safety of fans for the World Cup, and remain concerned that this will have hindered preparations and could put the safety of British fans at risk. (Paragraph 37)

4.We have been told that there will be rigorous security measures and consular support in place in cities where England plays, on match days, particularly within stadiums and official fan zones, and we look forward to seeing this happen. We are, however, concerned about the safety of UK fans outside these times and places, particularly those travelling to matches in which England is not participating. In addition, while reasonably extensive preparations have been made for the first three England matches, we are concerned that preparations for any subsequent matches will be more rushed. (Paragraph 38)

5.The FCO should do more to make fans aware of the distinction between arrangements that will be in place on match and non-match days, and in England and non-England match cities. (Paragraph 38)

6.We welcome declarations by the FCO and other witnesses that they have received adequate reassurances on Russia’s commitment to keep fans safe. However, in our view these reassurances are undermined by:

Russia’s decision to expel UK officials working on World Cup preparations;

Supportive attitudes on the part of some Russian politicians towards previous hooligan violence;

The advice of Russian civil society groups not to trust the government’s reassurances on LGBT issues; and,

The present volatility of UK-Russian relations. (Paragraph 39)

7.The FCO told us that it would advise UK nationals not to attend the World Cup if it could not guarantee their safety. Given the volatile state of UK-Russia relations, and the fact that the FCO’s assessment of Russian reactions to Salisbury is ongoing, it is particularly important that the Government can communicate with UK fans during the tournament. In the context of 150,000 UK citizens travelling to Russia annually, the fact that only 8,800 people are subscribed to the FCO’s travel advice seems worryingly low, and suggests that many fans intending to go to the World Cup do not receive the alerts. (Paragraph 40)

8.Given the volatility of the relationship and the nature of the Russian state, it is essential that, if the security situation deteriorates, the Government is prepared to act fast and decisively to advise fans against travel to the World Cup or to advise those in country to avoid a location, stay in their hotels, or even leave the country should the situation demand it. Although there is now little time to do so, the FCO should, as a matter of urgency, take additional steps to encourage UK fans to sign up for its travel alerts, so that it can keep as many fans as possible informed of any developments while they are in Russia. It should learn from this experience to ensure more people are subscribed to its travel alerts before future similar events. (Paragraph 41)

9.It is important that LGBT, BAME and other minority groups have all the necessary information to make an informed decision on whether to attend the World Cup, how to stay safe while there, and what steps to take if they face intimidation or violence. Though the Government recognises the issue, we are concerned that their approach in this area has been overly complacent. While we welcome the FCO’s commitment, following our suggestions, to update the Be on the Ball website with warnings about the risks to LGBT and BAME individuals, not to have taken this step earlier means that the FCO has missed a trick. (Paragraph 42)

10.We recognise that the FCO is limited in what it can reveal publicly about its concerns, and about the levels of consular staffing, before the World Cup has concluded. Given these restrictions, the FCO should report back to us after the tournament has concluded. This report should cover its consular operations, police co-operation, and any challenges the FCO faced, as well as an assessment of how far Russia’s assurances were fulfilled in practice. It should also set out what it has learned from the tournament, to help inform preparations for future events. We ask the FCO to provide us with this information by the end of September. (Paragraph 43)

Future World Cups

11.We regret that the World Cup is hosted by countries with poor human rights records, and which pose a heightened degree of risk to football fans. The FCO should monitor the selection process for the 2026 World Cup hosts, and report back to us its assessment of how effectively the new conditions have served to ensure that host countries respect human rights—including the rights of LGBT and BAME individuals. That report should also set out what further steps are needed to ensure that FIFA treats human rights considerations adequately; and how the FCO and other departments intend to feed back to FIFA on this point. We ask to receive this report by the end of September. (Paragraph 45)

Published: 8 June 2018