Fifa criticised for letting Qatar ‘run the show’ over LGBTQ+ protest threats

Fifa has faced fresh criticism for its handling of World Cup teams showing support for the LGBTQ+ community, amid claims the Qatari hosts are “running the show”.

Germany’s players covered their mouths during a team photo ahead of their 2-1 defeat against Japan to show “Fifa is silencing us” by shutting down attempts to wear rainbow-coloured armbands.

Seven European nations, including England and Wales, abandoned plans to wear the anti-discrimination symbol after Fifa threatened sporting sanctions.

The Football Association declined to comment on whether England would copy the German gesture, which could result in disciplinary action, ahead of their match against the United States on Friday.

Football Association of Wales chairman Noel Mooney told ITV News: “Months and months we’ve known that we were going to wear the OneLove armband, they (Fifa) certainly did, and to lay that one on us is pretty cheap and pretty low to be frank, and we’re really disappointed by that attitude.”

He added: “There was no way we could ask (Wales captain) Gareth Bale to take a yellow or red card at his first World Cup, how could we do that?

“We didn’t back down at all actually – we had to look at the sanctions there, we said we would accept any fines or sanctions that came, but when it turned to specific sporting sanctions that would have stopped our players taking the field of play potentially, that’s a different thing.”

“We’ve been absolutely furious about this, we’ve given Fifa everything we’ve got about how furious we are, we think it was a terrible decision.”

Fans in Doha were split over whether the home nations should follow Germany’s lead.

England fan James Fogarty, 39, who lives in Connecticut in the US but originally from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, told the PA news agency: “We knew what we were getting, right – the World Cup shouldn’t have been here but now it’s here, it what it is.”

Asked about the armband row, he said: “One of the things that’s slightly irritating is you go into the fan shop, you go into the stadiums and you can only pay by Visa, you can only drink Budweiser, you can only buy Adidas shirts and Fifa has sold out, right, and Fifa have sold out to the Qatari royalty too.

Harry Kane wearing a OneLove captain’s armband
Harry Kane wearing a OneLove captain’s armband (The FA/PA)

“They’re clearly not running the show, the Qataris are running the show and that’s unfortunate.”

On whether England should follow Germany’s protest, Mr Fogarty said: “I don’t like it when pop stars preach to me about politics, I don’t necessarily want football players preaching to me about politics.

“We know we shouldn’t be here, I wish they’d just play football.”

Ryan Tobin, 29, from Bridgend, South Wales, expressed concerns about rainbow bucket hats being confiscated from fellow Wales fans.

Mr Tobin and his friend Dylan Thomas, 28, from Maesteg, South Wales, said Bale should have worn the One Love armband to send a signal even if he risked being booked.

Asked if Wales should follow Germany’s lead, Mr Tobin said: “Yeah, why not? It makes a statement, doesn’t it?”

Mr Thomas added: “It’s important to show you’re together.”

Joe Lyddon, 31, from Wrexham, said: “I thought they should have all just worn the armbands to be honest and just taken the yellow card.

“If they’re that serious about it, I think Bale got booked and would have got sent off but that’s the risk you’ve got to take.”

Fans have reported having rainbow items, including T-shirts and Wales bucket hats, confiscated by officials in Qatar during the tournament.

Mr Mooney said: “To have our fans having their bucket hats being taken off of them is just appalling.”

He added: “We’re still waiting for written clarification that fans can wear what they wish going into the stadium on Friday against Iran.”

Rainbow-coloured corner flags emblazoned with the Welsh dragon appeared on the team’s training pitch in Al-Sadd, Doha, on Wednesday.

South African President State Visit to the UK
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Toby Melville/PA)

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said gay rights is an issue he has “brought up over a number of years” with Qatar.

He told the BBC: “I’ve made it clear that we feel very strongly about this issue and, actually, one of the advantages about having a strong relationship with other countries is you can have these difficult conversations.”

But some LGBT+ supporters have opted not to travel to the tournament in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

Downing Street said it is closely monitoring the treatment of UK fans at the World Cup.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, asked about the armbands controversy on Wednesday, said: “As a squad we all had conversations and we all stand for it. We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision got taken out of our hands as a squad and as players. It went higher up than that really.”