In a farcical build-up to their opening World Cup games, England, Wales and five other European nations announced an embarrassing climbdown just over three hours before Gareth Southgate’s side were due to kick-off.
FIFA refused to approve the anti-discrimination armband, which was first proposed to the world governing body by a number of European nations in September. Late last night, FIFA warned that any players wearing the armband would be in breach of kit regulations and would be shown a yellow card before kick-off. Kane will instead wear FIFA’s approved armband.
After frantic 11th-hour talks with FIFA and between themselves, the seven federations this morning relented, saying they could not “put players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions” and would “show our support in other ways”.
The decision to ditch the armband plan, however, was condemned by the Football Supporters’ Association, who said they felt “angry” and “betrayed”.
The seven federations said in a statement: “FIFA have been very clear that they will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. We can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or forced to leave the field.”
At major tournaments, two yellow cards result in a one-match ban, so Kane would have theoretically missed England’s final group game against Wales if FIFA punished wearing the armband with a pre-match booking.
Their statement continued: “We are very frustrated by the decision which we believe is unprecedented — we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the armband to support inclusion in football, and had no response.
“Our players and coaches are disappointed — they are strong supporters of inclusion.”
In response, FIFA announced they were bringing forward their ‘No Discrimination’ campaign, originally intended to launch at the quarter-final stage, so players could wear that armband instead.
FIFA insisted they supported the OneLove campaign and other “good and legitimate causes” but said any gestures had to be made “within the framework of the competition regulations which are known to everyone.”
FIFA said: “Our No Discrimination campaign has been brought forward from the quarter-finals stage in order that all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear this armband during the World Cup.
“The regulations exist to preserve the integrity of the field of play for all participants and are equally applicable to all competing teams.
“We are an inclusive organisation that want to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but it has to be done within the framework of the competition regulations.”
The FSA, meanwhile, issued a furious statement in response. It read: “No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.”