Video courtesy of Joe Lycett
Comedian Joe Lycett has revealed he did not actually shred £10,000 in protest of David Beckham’s £10m deal to be the ambassador for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Lycett had set the former England footballer an ultimatum to withdraw from the deal before midday on Sunday. If Beckham pulled out of the deal, Lycett would donate £10,000 of his own money to LGBTQ+ charities. However, if the ex-footballer failed to do so, the comedian would shred the money, along with his “status as a gay icon.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, which closely follows Sharia Law. Anyone found to be participating in homosexual acts can be imprisoned for up to seven years.
Lycett revealed in a message on Monday that he had donated the money before the original video was even posted, saying he would “never be so irresponsible” to “destroy real money.”
He went on to say that he “never expected to hear” from Beckham and that the whole stunt had been designed to “get people talking.”
In the video, Lycett shreds the magazine Attitude, with the front cover featuring a photo of Beckham, saying that this was “the first-ever cover of a gay magazine with a Premier League footballer on it. I asked Attitude if I could shred it. And they were more than happy to oblige.”
The 2022 Football World Cup has been shrouded in controversy since its announcement in 2010. In 2021, The Guardian reported that over 6500 migrant workers had died in the country after the tournament was announced. Workers were revealed to have been paid as little as £1 an hour to build the stadiums, and widespread exploitation and slavery were employed.
Qatar is estimated to have spent upwards of $220 billion on the event over the last 10 years. With the country’s relatively small population of 3 million, much of its infrastructure needed to be rebuilt from the ground up to handle the projected number of supporters. Migrant workers are regularly used across the Middle East as a form of disposable, cheap labour.
The repressive views on LGBTQ+ rights in the country have caused doubts over whether the country should have been allowed to host the tournament in the first place. Many venues across the UK have pledged to boycott showing the games, in protest of the regime.
On the evening before the tournament was due to begin, FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino lashed out at reporters for what he described as “hypocrisy” and “racism” over Europe’s scrutiny of Qatar.
Today I have very strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker. I feel like them because I know what it feels like to be discriminated, to be bullied as a foreigner in a country. At school I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. I was bullied, plus I was Italian, so imagine. I didn’t speak good German. What do you do then? You lock yourself down in your room, you cry and then you try to make some friends. You try to engage … You don’t start accusing or fighting, you start engaging. This is what we should be doing.
The unexpectedly lengthy statement has drawn criticism for brushing aside claims of homophobia and migrant deaths.