An organisation which sort to provide a “safe space” for LGBT and ethnic-minority football fans in Russia have said they were evicted from the premises in St Petersburg on the eve of the World Cup.
The Diversity House which aimed to provide a tolerant environment for gay and non-white football fans to watch matches was scheduled to open for the duration of the tournament.
However, a last minute change saw the building’s owners locked the organisers out and terminated their contract.
“They asked us to leave the place very rudely, switched off the electricity and they explained nothing to us,” a local organiser told the BBC.
Members of the international Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare) network, which was behind the initiative, believe the move could have been politically motivated.
FARE director Piara Powar in a statement on Saturday said, “It was a political attack of the kind that shows how debates about human rights are curtailed by powerful conservative political forces in Russia.”
The group organisers said they’ve found a new venue in the city centre which was opened on Saturday.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay prejudice is still very rife.
FIFA, which works with Fare, said it had contacted St Petersburg authorities to try to find a solution and said it “regretted” what had happened.
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