Wales staff made to remove rainbow hats at Qatar World Cup match, FWA reveals
The Wales team's staff were among people made to remove their rainbow hats at their World Cup match against the USA, the Football Association of Wales has revealed.
The FAW issued a statement saying it is "extremely disappointed" by the actions of employees at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar on Monday night. Security staff are accused of confiscating the multi-coloured hats from fans at the Group B game. Supporters claimed they were told it was a "banned symbol" despite Fifa previously saying rainbow-coloured flags and clothing were not prohibited in stadiums.
Same-sex relationships are outlawed in the Gulf state but the host nation's organisers had repeatedly said "all are welcome" in the run-up to the competition. In the statement released to the media, the FAW said it was collecting information on the incidents and would address them directly with Fifa on Tuesday.
"On Monday (21 November) Cymru returned to the Fifa World Cup for the first time in 64 years, an historic moment for the squad, the valued fans - The Red Wall/Y Wal Goch - and the nation," the FAW said. "However, the Football Association of Wales were extremely disappointed by reports that members of Y Wal Goch, which included FAW staff members, were asked to remove and discard their Rainbow Wall bucket hats before entry to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. These bucket hats were created in partnership with the FAW.
"The FAW has collated information on these alleged incidents and will be addressing this matter directly with Fifa today (22 November). The FAW will not be releasing any further comment at this stage."
News that fans wearing rainbow garments were denied entry to the stadium and were asked to put items in lost property has sparked outrage in Qatar, the UK and elsewhere around the world.
Former Wales team captain Laura McAllister, who is an ambassador for her country at the tournament, was among a number of women told to remove the hats. The PA news agency was made aware of at least one Wales fan who was told to take off his hat, leaving him "upset and angry".
It has been reported that US sports journalist Grant Wahl was told he would be barred from the game unless he changed his rainbow T-shirt. Ms McAllister said she was furious at being told to take her hat off but told ITV it was important to "stick to our values".
"I think we've had plenty of warning that this wasn't going to be a World Cup where human rights and LGBT rights and women's rights were well respected, really," she said. "But coming from a nation like Wales, we were very keen that we still took a stand."
Tim Hartley, a Wales fan and head of fan charity Gol Cymru, told PA: "This whole tournament leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. When you think that Fifa and Qatar couldn't get it any more wrong, they do something like this."
Some fans have claimed they were told the rainbow-coloured items were being confiscated for their own safety. A PA journalist witnessed a US fan being threatened for carrying a miniature rainbow flag on the Doha Metro by a man who appeared to be a Qatar supporter. The man threatened to "kill" the fan and said "that flag is banned in this country".
Wales and USA fans had to intervene to defuse the situation. It comes after Wales and England made a last minute U-turn on wearing OneLove rainbow armbands after Fifa threatened team captains Gareth Bale and Harry Kane with sporting sanctions.
BBC pundit and former England player Alex Scott wore a OneLove armband during a live broadcast from England's match against Iran. There were also complaints before England and Wales's matches about the ticketing system which caused chaos at the turnstiles.
Technical issues meant hundreds of fans missed the start of England v Iran at Khalifa International Stadium on Monday. Wales fans were urged to head to their game at least three hours early to get around any issues getting into the stadium.
The Wales Fan Embassy called for the Fifa system's glitches to be rectified ahead of the country's match with Iran on Friday.
Wales fans are also said to have had a number of large banners and flags confiscated heading into the stadium on Monday, despite pre-registering them weeks in advance, as required by Fifa. Some reported that the banners were missing at the end of the game, and have appealed on social media to find them. Paul Corkrey, from the Wales FSA, said the tournament had been "a shambles" so far.