“Don’t do anything gay”: The internet is mocking Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s advice to LGBT+ football fans in Qatar

James Cleverly
James Cleverly

Not too clever: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is being dragged for his advice to LGBT+ football fans in Qatar 


Football governing body FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) has been heavily condemned since announcing that the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar, where homosexuality is still criminalised, and same-sex marriages are not recognised by the government.

Currently in Qatar, same sex intercourse is punishable by flogging, stoning to death or up to seven years in prison and multiple appeals to suspend these laws during the World Cup were thrown out. 

Al Janoub stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar
The Al Janoub stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, one of the venues for the competition that starts in late November. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

The decision to host the tournament in Qatar has proved consistently divisive, with the likes of David Beckham and Garry Neville both coming under fire for their somewhat blasé involvement with country.


Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is the latest to be met with criticism, being called “tone-deaf” for his response when asked about the country’s human rights and LGBT rights.

James Cleverly
James Cleverly

On Wednesday (October 26), talking to Sky News ahead of the tournament next month, Cleverly said:

“We have incredibly important partners in the Middle East. These are Muslim countries; they have a very different cultural starting point [from] us.”

“I think it’s important, when you’re a visitor to a country, that you respect the culture of your host nation.”

He added: “We do talk to them about our values and why we believe it’s important that people’s rights from all kinds of communities are respected.”

“And of course, it will be something that we continue to talk to them about.”


While, during an appearance on radio station LBC, Cleverly suggested LGBTQ+ football fans “compromise” during the World Cup in Qatar.


While the advice is, on the surface, fairly reasonable, many online have shared their discomfort with the official Government line being not only institutionally homophobic, but a slightly regressive stance, which sounds like we’ve time-hopped a few decades.


Labour’s shadow culture secretary criticised Mr Cleverly’s remarks, describing them as “shockingly tone-deaf”.


While Lucy Powell said: “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.”


Sangita Myska of LBC said: “It takes the unique skills of James Cleverly, to be Secretary of State for Defending the Indefensible.”



Footballer Gary Neville said: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?”



One day earlier in Qatar, LGBTQ+ rights activist Peter Thatchell was detained & ordered to immediately leave the country for holding up a paper saying, “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to conversion”.

Despite his being a peaceful, small protest, the host nation was quick to act and shut it down. 


Read some responses to Cleverly’s comments from Twitter below: