Secret understandings between Fifa and Qatari officials around policing at World Cup

One document says ‘women will not face any accusations if they report rape or sexual harassment/violence’

Restraint is to be urged of police during the World Cup regarding behaviour that goes against the cultural norms of Qatar but is commonplace in Europe, according to a series of secret understandings brokered between Fifa and Qatari officials.

Fans should be allowed to climb on tables, drape flags over statues and sing loud songs in public without facing interventions by police, according to a summary of the agreements seen by the Guardian. Essential areas of individual rights are also covered, with LGBTQ+ fans to be allowed to show displays of affection in the street and fly rainbow flags in public places despite laws that mean homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state.

With the opening match of the World Cup just over two weeks away, fans and football associations continue to face uncertainty over how supporters will be treated in Qatar. This is especially true of policing, much of which will be subcontracted by Qatar to Turkish and Pakistani law enforcement. This week British police said they would be taking 15 “supporter engagement officers” to the tournament to help avoid cultural misunderstandings. But unpublished results of discussions between Fifa and representatives of the Qatari Safety and Security Operations Committee (SSOC) shows there are a number of areas in which police will be expected to show “leniency towards behaviours that do not threaten physical integrity or property”.

In a section headlined “fans” the document lays out instances in which police should not intervene in specific detail. “Standing on a table/chair/bench and chanting a fan song in public: no action, no prosecution,” reads one entry. “Covering sculptures, etc. with fan flags and banners in public: no action, no prosecution,” is another.


The document is understood to be a distillation of a lengthy meeting in which Fifa officials sought to obtain firm answers on how policing might be conducted during the tournament. Some elements emphasise the wide gap between western expectations of the law and the norms in Qatar.

One section, marked “women’s rights”, states: “Women will be able to receive medical care including related to pregnancy or reproductive health regardless of the circumstances and will not face any accusations.” This statement is likely a response to laws that mean consenting sex outside of marriage remains illegal in Qatar. The document goes on to say: “Women will not face any accusations if they report rape or sexual harassment/violence.”

Qataris have come under intense pressure to ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ people travelling to the tournament. The document makes no mention of the possibility of amending the penal code, one demand made of the World Cup hosts, but under a section marked “public norms” it says: “Visitors can stay in the same room regardless of marital status or gender.”

On the issue of protest around LGBTQ+ rights, the document says: “Persons displaying the rainbow or other sexual identity flags will neither be approached, detained nor prosecuted.” It also confirms that people should be allowed to kiss and hold hands in public places or in stadiums without interference.

A lack of public commitment from the hosts to greater tolerance for the duration of the tournament has caused concerns to rise among supporters intending to travel as well as those in marginalised groups. The latest news comes after it was revealed that hundreds of fans will be travelling at the expense of Qatari authorities who, in return, will ask that individuals do not make critical remarks in public about the tournament.

Fifa would not comment on the document when approached by the Guardian, and a statement provided by the Supreme Committee in charge of implementing the World Cup said: “We are aware of a Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 document regarding fan behaviour circulating on social media. This document was not developed or approved by the SC or any other State of Qatar entity.” – Guardian