Last Updated: 17/06/18 10:58pm
An England LGBT supporter attending the World Cup is fearful of displaying display her ‘3 Lions Pride’ rainbow banner in case she attracts unwanted attention from Russian police.
MPs warned prior to the tournament that LGBT+ supporters face additional risks in Russia because of the country’s attitudes to homosexuality.
Di Cunningham is chair of Pride in Football (PiF), the UK alliance for groups of fans across all leagues who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
A Norwich supporter, she has travelled to Russia to support England but admits she is concerned about safety.
“There have been a lot of LGBT+ fans who have felt unable to come and who have expressed that concern, and have expressed concern for people like me that are coming,” Cunningham told Sky Sports News.
“[I am getting] constant messages, saying “stay safe”. It is very nice but actually it raises your anxiety levels even more.”
Cunningham has brought a ‘3 Lions Pride’ rainbow banner to Russia but is fearful of displaying it outside stadiums, where FIFA have stated LGBT insignia will be permitted to be displayed.
England play their first match of the tournament on Monday night against Tunisia in Volgograd.
Their second will take place on June 24 against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod, while their final group game is on June 28 against Belgium in Kaliningrad.
Should England finish top of Group G, they will progress to the last 16 against whichever team finishes second in Group H – which consists of Columbia, Poland, Japan and Senegal. That game would place in Rostov on July 2.
Should England finish second in their group, they would progress to face the Group H winners in Moscow on July 3.
Despite her love for England, Cunningham is hoping they finish in second place in the group, rather than top, because she is reluctant to travel to Rostov.
Cunningham explained: “I have got the England ‘3 Lions Pride’ banner with me, which has got the rainbow lions, and I have been really hesitant to get it out because, you know, who knows?
When asked to explain why, she added: “I do feel uncomfortable. I am looking…. Is there anyone around?
“Because it has rainbows on it, it contravenes the 2013 Gay Propaganda Act, which makes illegal the promotion of non-traditional relationships. Clearly, rainbow does [that].
“I know we have guarantees from Alexey Smertin, the Russian FA equality ambassador, and from FIFA as well that it is going to be fine to see LGBT insignia in stadiums but we do not have that guarantee outside the stadiums.
“And certainly the message from Rostov – I really don’t want us to qualify so that we play there, I would much rather England qualify via Moscow – is that people will be arrested if they show rainbow insignia inside the stadium so, yeah, I am anxious.”