David Beckham slammed for backing Qatar World Cup by rugby legend Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas has hit out at David Beckham over his ­money-spinning backing of the World Cup in Qatar.

The first openly gay pro rugby player, 48, said supporters of the tournament should not bury their heads in the sand about the Arab nation’s poor human rights record and outlawing of homosexuality.

Ex-England captain Becks, 47, signed a deal worth £15million a year over the next decade to become Qatar’s ambassador.

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And it has been said he was assured fans would be safe and allowed to display rainbow flags in stadiums at next month’s event.

But Wales rugby legend Gareth, above, told the Daily Star Sunday: “For anyone who supports this football World Cup being in Qatar, the sad thing is I don’t know what the legacy of it is going to be. They have to recognise there is a dual aspect to this.

“There is the sport, but the World Cup is about highlighting Qatar’s disastrous human rights record – you can’t do one without addressing the other.

“I feel Beckham has been totally f­ocused on the football and totally missed the human rights point.”

“Having the last World Cup in Russia was questionable. It’s not illegal to be gay in Russia, but it’s frowned upon.

“Now to have it in a country where being gay is illegal feels like a step ­backwards when you look at all the work being done in the UK like, ‘Kick out homophobia in football’.

“The pinnacle of that sport’s calendar being in Qatar contradicts all the hard work that’s been done to make that an open and equal game.”

Becks visited Qatar last November to mark the one-year countdown to the World Cup. His spokeswoman said at the time: “David has always talked about the power of football as a force for good on many levels.”

Beckham has been approached for comment.

● Gareth spoke out while fronting the Tackle HIV campaign, in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and the Terrence Higgins Trust. It aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. Visit www.tacklehiv.org and follow @tacklehiv for more info.

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