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Joe Lycett and David Beckham: The queer issues behind the Qatar World Cup

Joe Lycett and David Beckham: The queer issues behind the Qatar World Cup

Matilda Davies
QueerAF, Matilda Davies
TL;DR: Bisexual comedian (and icon) Joe Lycett took to Instagram to call out footballer David Beckham for signing on as an ambassador for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which has an abhorrent LGBTQIA+ rights record.

In a video which has been viewed over a million times, Lycett commended Beckham’s “status as a gay icon” owing to him being the first premiership footballer to do a photoshoot with LGBTQIA+ publication Attitude and his history of speaking openly to and about his gay fans.

In response to Beckham reportedly taking a £10 million deal to be an ambassador for the World Cup, Lycett told his followers he would donate £10,000 to charities supporting queer people in football if Beckham backed out of the deal by midday this Sunday. Otherwise, he would shred the cash. - Joe Lycett

In a follow-up post, Lycett shared a screenshot of an email to Beckham’s PR, saying: “I really don’t want to shred ten grand!!! I also really don’t want a national treasure […] to publicly endorse and advertise a nation state that has an appalling human rights record and has the death penalty for gays - call me old fashioned!!!” - Joe Lycett

He’s also circulating the hashtag #BendersLikeBeckham, and has created a website with the same name counting down to the deadline - Benders Like Beckham

Why is Qatar so bad?

The backlash against Qatar hosting the World Cup is predominantly because of its anti-gay laws. Article 285 of the nation’s penal code bans same-sex sexual activity for men and women, holding a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.

It also has laws against seducing a male to commit sodomy, inducing people to commit “illegal or immoral actions” and allowing Qatari forces to detain people without charge or trial if they have “well-founded reasons” to believe a crime has been committed. - PinkNews

As a result, Qatari forces have reportedly arrested and abused LGBTQ+ people arbitrarily with documented cases including beatings, sexual harassment in police custody and unlawful searches - Human Rights Watch

The World Cup

Last week, 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman called homosexuality as “damage in the mind” - Human Rights Watch

Ministers in the UK government have been advised to include a warning for LGBTQIA+ football fans in its travel advice for Qatar - BBC

A recent survey found that six in 10 Brits oppose Qatar hosting the World Cup because of its homophobic laws - Guardian

FIFA has held meetings with LGBTQIA+ organisations ahead of the event, but a founder of queer rights organisation Ahwaa, said it was a “Band-Aid” over Qatar’s treatment of LGBTQIA+ citizens - iNews


Qatar’s human rights record speaks for itself. On top of its treatment of queer people, Qatar also has laws that mean victims of sexual assault can be punished for extramarital sex, and 6,500 migrant workers have reportedly died in the country since it was awarded its hosting duties.

Support from big names like Joe Lycett is vital for bringing public attention to these issues, and calling for support from David Beckham.

Spice girl Melanie C, Dua Lipa, Rod Stewaart and journalist Ian Hislop have all also used their platforms to shed light on the issues.

Speaking out against human rights abuses worldwide is vitally important. We thank Joe for consistently using his platform for good - may many more follow your lead.

Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

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