By OLAWALE ALABI
LONDON- The British government has confirmed that members of the country’s parliament (MPs) are not banned from attending the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
It however said on Sunday that there were no plans for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to fly to Qatar in support of England and Wales.
The number of fans, organisations and cities choosing to snub this year’s competition has continued to rise due to concerns over the Gulf state’s human rights record.
The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “No plans for the PM to attend, but we confirm travel nearer the time.”
Asked if there was a ban on attendance, he replied: “Not that I’m aware of.”
Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell announced last month that Labour would not be sending a delegation to the Middle East nation.
She said this was in a stand against Qatar’s criminalisation of same-sex relationships and its treatment of migrant workers.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, however, said he would be making the trip with two of his Cabinet members for the group stages.
He claimed he would use the platform “to promote Wales and engage in diplomacy.”
Last week the Welsh government said it would now not be attending Wales’ match against Iran.
This was in response to the events which have unfolded since 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the country’s morality police.
The decision was not related to the wider debate about whether the entire visit to Qatar was appropriate, the government said.
Politicians and political parties are not alone in having to grapple with the controversy surrounding the tournament.
National teams as well as celebrities, commentators and members of the royal family have had to make their decisions on the matter public.
The England and Wales teams decided against removing themselves from the running for the world’s biggest sporting event, with their games expected to go ahead as planned.
Both squads have instead opted for wearing the “One Love” armbands in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
The Football Association of Wales said its players have been told they have the freedom to speak out on any issues that concern them during the 28-day-long World Cup.
None of the 32 sides taking part have pulled out in spite of calls by a number of local teams for a boycott.
Australian team the Socceroos became the first team to come out with a collective statement criticising host Qatar’s human rights violations.
In the impassioned video, team members said the “decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has resulted in the suffering and harm”.
They called for better labour rights and the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships.
A growing number of French cities, including Paris, have joined a boycott and will not show World Cup matches in public places or set up fan zones.
The mayor of Marseille claimed the competition had “gradually turned into a human and environmental disaster.”
Football pundit and former England striker Gary Lineker, who is commentating at the World Cup for the BBC, said there was a responsibility with reporting the tournament.
Fellow footballing legend David Beckham has been heavily criticised for accepting 10 million pounds (11.3 million dollars) to be an ambassador for Qatar.
A televised campaign he starred in, which claimed the World Cup will be carbon neutral, has been reported to British and European watchdogs.
Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, has said he has “no plans” to attend the World Cup due to a busy winter schedule.
He however added that he may look at going if England reaches the final.
But as the tournament nears, pressure to boycott the World Cup grows.
Campaigners have began to ask celebrities, such as Robbie Williams, who will be performing in Doha, not to support the World Cup.
Already, world football governing body FIFA has written to all teams competing, telling them to “now focus on the football” following a controversial build-up.
Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said, while responding to the development, that the reasoning behind the boycotts does not “add up.”
“There is a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks, which ignore all that we have achieved,” Sheikh Mohammed added.(dpa/NAN)