Half (51%) of UK adults say football and footballers should stay out of political issues, according to a recent poll from Savanta ComRes ahead of the Men’s FIFA World Cup.
While only around a third (36%) say that they should use their platform to bring about change, this figure rises to just over half (52%) among 18-34 year olds (compared to just 20% among those 55+).
The decision to award the World Cup to the Qatar has been controversial since the outset, with the Gulf nation’s treatment of migrant workers and human rights record, including the criminalisation of same-sex relationships coming under scrutiny.
However, despite the fact two thirds (66%) say Qatar is not a suitable host for the World Cup, more than half (54%) say nations competing in Qatar should not focus on political issues during the tournament. Among those who watch football often these figures rise to 75% and 60% respectively.
Yet when probed directly on specific measures, support for players speaking out rises.
The majority (56%) of UK adults, including almost two thirds (63%) of football fans, say they support captains wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband at the tournament, while only 13% (14% among football fans) are opposed.
At the World Cup, England and Wales will both play an Iranian team who have demonstrated their support for the protestors calling for the liberalisation of women’s rights in their country.
When asked, two in five (41%) UK adults say England and Wales players should demonstrate their solidarity with the Iranian protestors at the tournament, outnumbering the third (35%) who say they should not.
Emma Levin, Senior Political Consultant at Savanta ComRes said, “It is clear from this survey that the idea of football and politics mixing makes many people uncomfortable and with many fans caring primarily about the players’ performances on the pitch, rather than their activism off it.
“However, when asked about specific interventions the public are much more open to the idea of footballers speaking out.”
“In the men’s Euros in 2021, we saw public support for ‘taking the knee’ rise as England progressed through the tournament and this may be the case in Qatar.
“However, with most predicting England and Wales will be knocked out by the semi-finals and quarter finals respectively, there is not too much optimism of World Cup glory this Christmas.”