British police sent to the World Cup have been ordered not to “pander to their own egos” by making “grand gestures” over LGBT rights in Qatar.
Mark Roberts, the UK’s top football policing chief, said his officers needed to be “grown up” about Qatari culture rather than criticising the hosts “to get a few cheers back home”.
Mr Roberts, the Chief Constable of Cheshire Police, has led a team of 15 officers to Qatar to help defuse any incidents between England and Wales fans and local law enforcement.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Roberts said British police should not be taking a public stand on LGBT rights or any other issues in Qatar.
“If you go into these countries and start telling them what to do, you lose all influence,” he said.
“We could do a grand gesture, a tweet that gets us a load of likes and a load of followers but you never get spoken to again. You have to be a bit grown up about it.
“We have to realise that we are guests in this country. I’m not naive, I read as much as anyone else. But my team will not be pandering to their own egos by making a load of political statements to get a few cheers back home, or to build Twitter followers.”
It comes after Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, told police chiefs to stop wasting time on “symbolic gestures” and instead focus on common-sense policing.
Qatar has been repeatedly criticised during the World Cup for its treatment of LGBT people and its human rights record. Harry Kane, the England captain, has been at the centre of a row with FIFA over rainbow armbands after players were banned from wearing the symbol during matches. The hosts were also criticised for blocking the sale of alcohol at World Cup stadiums.
But Mr Roberts said the strict alcohol rules in Qatar had helped make the tournament the most peaceful in living memory, with not a single British fan arrested so far.
Qatari police had even bent their own laws on public drunkenness to help some England fans find their way back to their hotels.
“I think it’s gone really, really well,” he said.“Clearly, the fact people can’t drink as much has played a part in that. Alcohol is always a risk factor.
“I would say this is certainly the most tranquil of all the men’s tournaments I can remember.
“We’ve had a few issues, but nothing major. A couple of fans have been a bit too drunk, but the Qatari police found his friends and asked them to look after him. So it’s been really friendly and welcoming so far. The fans are happy, and that’s the most important thing.”
Three England fans were arrested at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 15 were arrested four years earlier in Brazil, and seven at South Africa in 2010.