Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford expected to attend Qatar World Cup despite human rights concerns

It is understood that Labour is not planning to send any kind of delegation to the games

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Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford is still expecting to travel to the World Cup in Qatar despite expectations that Labour will snub the tournament.

It is understood that Labour is not planning to send any kind of delegation to the games, which begin on November 20, and will not be formally represented in Qatar.

Last week, it was reported that Lucy Powell, the party’s shadow culture and sport secretary, received an invitation from the Qatari government but turned it down.

This follows concerns over the treatment of construction workers and the criminalisation of same-sex relationships in the country.

On Saturday, the Welsh Government indicated there had been no change in its position since comments made by Economy Minister Vaughan Gething to the Welsh Parliament on September 27.

Mark Drakeford will be backing Wales, who will take on England in the group stage of the tournament.
Mark Drakeford will be backing Wales, who will take on England in the group stage of the tournament.

Mr Gething told the Senedd that he, Welsh Labour leader Mr Drakeford and Dawn Bowden, the deputy minister for Arts and Sports and the Chief Whip, would attend events at the World Cup “to promote Wales and engage in diplomacy”.

They are expected to watch each of Wales’ group games against the USA, Iran and England, as well as others depending on the progress of the team in the tournament.

During his statement, Mr Gething acknowledged there were “significant challenges” with the World Cup being hosted in Qatar, citing its human rights and workers’ rights records, and some LGBTQ+ fans not travelling there.

He said: “We will use our platform as an opportunity to express our values and to demonstrate that Wales is a nation of values on the world stage.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said on Saturday: “We are proud that Wales will be competing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“We believe that it is better to engage with countries that do not always share our values on human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, workers’ rights and political and religious freedom.

The tournament in Qatar has proven to be a contentious topic.
The tournament in Qatar has proven to be a contentious topic.

“Engaging with countries provides an opportunity to develop a platform for further discussion, to raise awareness and to potentially influence a change in approach.”

The Welsh Government first indicated that its position on attendance had not changed to WalesOnline.

Last week, the Mail on Sunday reported that Ms Powell would not be travelling to the tournament.

Ms Powell said: “Of course, I am looking forward to the World Cup and I’ll be cheering England on.

“But we cannot avert our eyes from the problems in Qatar.

“Dozens of construction workers have been killed putting this tournament on.

“And LGBT England and Wales fans are having to put up with the tournament being played in a country where their sexuality is criminalised.

“I’m excited to cheer on the England team from my sitting room and from my local pub.”

Speaking ahead of the tournament, Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, said the value of inclusion had never been more critical.

“As we approach the 2022 Men’s World Cup, we must remember that Qatar is a country where LGBTQ+ people are persecuted simply for being themselves,” she said.

“Sadly, this year’s tournament is not safe for everyone, which is why it’s so important to see players and fans stand up to be counted.

“The World Cup is a vital moment for the global sporting community to stand up and call out the criminalisation and persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar.”