Piers Morgan, 57, branded it disgraceful the BBC opted out of screening the World Cup’s opening ceremony on its main channels, amid cries from fans of “Is this normal?” The straight-talking broadcaster called out their decision, while some fans argued the host country, Qatar, did not align with Western values due to its stance on migrant rights and homosexuality.
While the World Cup coverage was available via the red button, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website, viewers who tuned in on TV were instead met with a fierce debate, led by presenters such as Gary Lineker and Alex Scott, on human rights in the country.
The decision riled Piers, who took to Twitter to exclaim: “Outrageously disrespectful to Qatar that the BBC didn’t broadcast the World Cup opening ceremony, and instead put out more virtue-signalling guff about how awful it is.
“If they’re that appalled, they should bring home their vast army of employees & spare us this absurd hypocrisy.”
He has also urged viewers to stop virtue-signalling and simply “focus on the bl***y” football”.
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Yet some viewers are deeply upset over Qatar potentially being able to sentence its citizens to death as a punishment for gay sex, though this has never happened before in the history of the country.
Gary Lineker voiced concerns over human rights in his opening monologue, which was screened on the channel as an alternative to the actual coverage.
“‘It’s the most controversial World Cup in history and a ball hasn’t even been kicked,” he exclaimed.
Qatar has a series of notoriously strict laws which separate them from Western norms, including arresting and jailing pregnant women who are unmarried.
Muslims can be sentenced to the death penalty if they are found to have had extra-marital sex, while those who are unmarried at the time could receive the lesser penalty of flogging.
There have been accusations of mistreatment of migrant workers, with claims that up to thousands died during the building of the World Cup stadia due to unsafe conditions.
The claims have been denied by Qatari authorities.
Meanwhile, blisteringly hot temperatures of above 30C are expected this week, in spite of it being winter in the Gulf – and some are concerned the conditions are too hot for players.
Besides Gary Lineker’s comments on homosexuality being illegal in the host country, Alex has also echoed concerns “people have not been able to travel to watch their team and support their team out of fear”.
Alex has had a same sex relationship herself, previously dating Arsenal Ladies player Kelly Smith, and has admitted she’s had tough conversations about whether she should be boycotting the tournament in Qatar.
However, she insisted there’s no prospect of her taking the “easy option”, stating: “I’m here because I love my job.”
Only four years ago, Alex was the first ever female pundit for the BBC at a World Cup – and she’s hoping that progression will continue in the years to come.
Yet she has blasted FIFA, arguing: “It’s absurd that you’re not even committing to a compensation fund for families [for migrant workers’].”
She continued: “When we sit here, we are in the richest country, FIFA is one of the richest organisations.
“The great Nelson Mandela said we can use sport to change the world. But these two [Qatar and FIFA] are not, when they can.”
Yet @Magistar7 criticised Alex on Twitter for not doing more to challenge attitudes towards LGBT+ citizens.
He challenged that she’d posed for photos with Vladimir Putin at a previous World Cup in Russia, despite homosexuality being treated harshly there due to a law banning “gay propaganda”.
The debate continues, as the World Cup action begins to heat up.
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