DOHA, Qatar — FIFA’s chief spokesman defended world football chief Gianni Infantino’s record on LGBTQ rights on Saturday on the eve of the World Cup.
In remarks to reporters at the end of a wide-ranging press conference by Infantino, FIFA media chief Bryan Swanson, who is gay, insisted that all would be welcome at the Qatar World Cup.
“I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Gianni Infantino since I’ve joined FIFA, in particular from the LGBTQ community,” Swanson said.
“I’m sitting here in a privileged position on a global stage as a gay man here in Qatar.”
“We have received assurances that everybody is welcome and I believe that everybody will be welcome in this World Cup.”
Qatar has come under sustained fire over its human rights record, its treatment of foreign workers, and its stance on women’s and LGBTQ rights.
Former Qatari international and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman sparked outrage earlier this month after calling homosexuality “damage in the mind” in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.
Swanson, who joined FIFA last year after nearly two decades as a broadcaster on Britain’s Sky Sports, insisted Infantino was a staunch ally for LGBTQ causes.
“Just because Gianni Infantino is not gay, does not mean that he doesn’t care. He does care. You see the public side. I see the private side,” Swanson said.
“We have spoken on a number of occasions about this. I thought long and hard about whether I should mention this, but I do feel strongly about it. We care at FIFA about everyone.”
“We are an inclusive organization. I have a number of gay colleagues. So sitting here I’m fully aware of the debate and I fully respect everyone’s right and everyone’s opinions to think differently. I get it.”
“But I also know what we stand for and when (Infantino) says that we are inclusive, he means it.”