With the biggest sporting event in the world finally upon us, and the latest odds on World Cup group stage in full swing, tensions are high as the controversial World Cup goes ahead in Russia. The sheer number of fans from all over the globe travelling to the country is set to be considerably higher than ever. British Airline BA said “We’re all behind the England football team, and with three flights a day to Moscow and one to St Petersburg, we’re excited to be the airline of choice for the huge number of football fans flying out to the World Cup. To make sure as many fans as possible are able to travel, we’ve added larger aircraft on these routes in June and July.”
Although this could be great for Russian tourism, it could also spell disaster for those on both sides of the world if people aren’t prepared.
In the last five years there have been 297 incidents of terrorism in Russia, resulting in 336 fatalities, and the British Government site, gov.uk, stated that “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Russia. Although these have mainly been by Islamist and rebel groups in the North Caucasus, attacks in other major cities and regions can’t be ruled out. Previous attacks, including in Moscow and St Petersburg, have seen large numbers of casualties, and Russian aviation has also been targeted.”
Although Russian authorities are likely to be on high-alert during the event, it’s still worth being aware of your surroundings and understanding the risks. Make sure you know not only the area you’re in, but also the people you’re with. Try and stay with friends or meet other groups of Brits travelling in the area to try and improve safety in numbers.
FIFA promised fans that equality and safety would be promoted during the World Cup, and that hatred and bigotry would not be supported in any measure. However, Nick Duffy, editor at LGBTQ publication Pink News stated "The fact that the UK government is promoting guidance warning gay fans to stay in the closet, and telling transgender fans to avoid public bathrooms, clearly demonstrates that FIFA's vague assurances about discrimination have failed to secure the confidence of anyone. The claim that discrimination will not be tolerated is clearly not sufficient for fans on the ground, who will wonder what - if any - genuine protections will be in place for them, given the Russian security forces themselves have been complicit in the country's well-documented clampdown on LGBTQ life.”
FIFA's assurances have not been borne out in public statements from the Russian government. Before the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, President Putin made public and personal assurances to Western media outlets about the safety of LGBTQ participants and fans. Notably this time round he has not done so. Global events, like the FIFA World Cup, should be held in open, tolerant places where everyone feels welcome to attend and able to participate. Sadly, in recent years, FIFA has failed to win the confidence of the LGBTQ community on this point, and the decisions to award their 2018 and 2022 World Cups to countries that violate the human rights of their LGBTQ communities on a daily basis remains of great concern.
During the 2016 Euro tournament it’s thought that around 15,000 Russian fans were in France for the event, with 150 highly trained Russian ’ultras’ flying to Marseille for the day of the England-Russia match to cause chaos and to injure English fans. In the lead up to the World Cup, Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, stated "There must be blacklists. Those breaking the law must be barred from entry into the country and from attending matches." Dvorkovich was cited as saying: "This refers to both our fans...and foreign ones."
Be wary of encouraging violence from any side. With English fans being a target, try to not provoke extreme reactions from locals, no matter the outcome of the tournament. To keep a better eye on the types of fans that are attending games, FIFA decided to issue ’Fan ID passports’ for the 2018 World Cup. An estimated 100,000 passports have been issued, with over 200,000 applications still being processed. The passport includes identification details such as:
• Ticket number
• Mobile phone number
• E-mail address
• Postal address
Around 37,000 security personnel will be stationed in and around the tournament venues to identify the appropriate security measures and to keep the laws enforced.
Are you thinking of heading to the World Cup this year? Got any World Cup betting tips for your friends? How worried are you about the security this year? Let us know in the comments!