Rishi Sunak felt it was “right” to congratulate Qatar for its hosting of the World Cup, Downing Street said, amid criticism from LGBT+ supporters’ groups.
Several LGBT+ fans opted not to travel to the tournament given homosexuality is still illegal in the Gulf state.
Supporters also reported having rainbow items, including T-shirts and Wales bucket hats, confiscated by officials in Qatar – particularly during the earlier stages of the competition.
Prime Minister Mr Sunak, ahead of England’s 3-0 second round win against Senegal on Sunday, tweeted: “Hats off to Qatar for hosting an incredible World Cup so far.
“The group stages will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked about the praise for Qatar, said: “On the broader issues with Qatar, you’ll know ministers have raised those in the run-up to the tournament.
“But it was felt it was right to congratulate the tournament organisers as well as the team for their performance.”
The Three Lions Pride, an England LGBT+ fans’ group, had tweeted in response to Mr Sunak: “Rainbow bucket hats off to the PM here for completely ignoring all the free speech quashing, discrimination by security and other organisational issues fans have faced.
“The only thing incredible about this @FIFAWorldCup is that it was allowed to happen #NoPrideWithoutAll.”
Pride in Football, the network of LGBT+ fan groups in the UK, also wrote on Twitter: “Incredibly disappointing to see the Prime Minister’s tweet yesterday.
“Members of @3Lionspride & @TheRainbowWall felt unable to travel & their allies who did go were subject to unreasonable delays & seizure of items we had been told explicitly would be allowed.”