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FIFA World Cup

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2018

14. Whether he has had discussions with his international counterparts on postponing the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (904599)

Mr Speaker, may I crave your indulgence to prostrate myself before you and to apologise for any inadvertent sexism or discourtesy that you may have deemed me to be guilty of? I heartily tender my apologies to the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) if she was offended by what I said. I meant no harm, and I apologise unreservedly if I have offended her feelings.

Following the abhorrent chemical attack in Salisbury, the UK Government have engaged closely with our international partners on this and other issues, but the holding of sports events and the choice of venues is a matter for the relevant sporting authorities—in this case, FIFA.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his gracious apology. As far as I am concerned, if I can use the expression again, that is the end of the matter.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his response, but the fact is that sport and politics do mix. Who can forget Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin or the sporting boycotts of the despicable apartheid regime? Surely the Foreign Secretary sees the profound inconsistency between the very welcome retaliatory measures that our Government and many other Governments have taken and us all trotting off to Russia in a few months to provide Mr Putin with a smokescreen for what he does and how he behaves.

There are no plans to boycott the World cup or to try to get a boycott by the England team—that is, after all, a matter for the Football Association and not the Government—nor is there any desire to punish England fans. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there will be no attendance by Ministers or members of the royal family, as the Prime Minister told the House on 14 March. As he knows, several other countries have decided to put in place the same measures.

English football fans were targeted by Russian football gangs in the Euro 2016 tournament, and many were left with life-changing injuries as a result. There are concerns that those Russian football gangs have links to President Putin’s Government. Will the Foreign Secretary be updating travel advice for the 10,000 fans who are planning to travel to the World cup this summer?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. The travel advice has been updated. Fans should be aware of the possibility of political tensions between the UK and Russia and should be vigilant but, above all, should stay in touch with us and look at the Be on the Ball website.