Fifa gives ‘platform to hatred’ over feared sanctions on armbands

Fifa has given a “platform to hatred” after fears there would be sanctions on players wearing anti-discrimination armbands during the World Cup, LGBT groups have said.

A joint statement from seven European nations who had signed up to the One Love campaign – which included England and Wales – confirmed the armbands will no longer be worn due to fear of a yellow card being issued.

LGBT football groups and politicians hit out at the governing body, with a campaigner saying teams had been “bullied” into not showing support for social causes.

A joint statement by Three Lions Pride and The Rainbow Wall, said: “In seeking to censor European FAs and players by forcing them to abandon using the ‘OneLove’ Armband aimed at tackling all forms of discrimination, Fifa are guilty of crushing the basic human rights to freedom of speech and of expression that every single one of us should have without question.

“In doing so, Fifa are guilty of silencing anti-discrimination work within the game and of giving a platform to hatred.

“This abuse of power by those who have chosen to remain silent for so long is a gross betrayal of trust and cannot be allowed to stand.

“We have no faith in Fifa, no trust in this World Cup.”

It was feared Three Lions skipper Harry Kane and Gareth Bale, of Wales, could be booked for wearing the rainbow-coloured One Love armband, because it is not a Fifa-approved piece of kit.

Fifa has issued its own armbands to be worn by the 32 competing nations instead.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Previews – Thursday 28th July
LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised Fifa (Peter Byrne/PA)

LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The OneLove armband was the tiniest of gestures. It did not even specifically mention LGBT+ people.

“It was a weak campaign but even that was too much for Fifa, who have bullied the England team to not wear it.

“Two days ago Fifa’s president spoke of inclusivity but this ruling shows his true colours.

“I urge the team captains at their post-match press conferences to spend just 30 seconds to speak out for the rights of women, LGBTs and migrant workers. That would have a huge impact, reaching a global audience of hundreds of millions of people.”

Anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out said players “should not have to bear the burden of Fifa’s mistakes” in not addressing the concerns of human rights groups and the LGBTQ+ community in the run-up to the tournament.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said it was “disappointing” that players faced punishment for supporting equal rights.

“The England & Wales players have my support,” she said on Twitter.

“The #OneLove armband promotes diversity & inclusion, which are values we will always stand up for.

“It is disappointing that our players are put in a position where they face being punished for supporting equal human rights.”

Chris Threadgold, a defender for the London Falcons, an LGBT+ inclusive football club based in Wimbledon, south west London, told the PA news agency he felt “let down” by the FA.

“As an amateur gay footballer who plays in a FA-organised league in London with my club, I feel let down by the English FA who have given promises and assurances for months and have folded at the first sign of resistance from Fifa,” the 26-year-old England supporter said.

Lily Paterson, 25, from Hampshire, who is transgender, said: “I just feel let down to be honest. I’ve come to support England at one of my local pubs.

“I’ve had people stare, judge and make jokes about me… from the moment I stepped in, I had stares and all sorts. It’s very difficult.

“The armband means so much, but not to wear it is disappointing. England should have made a stand, football is for all. And a yellow card seems like a small price to pay for LGBTQ+ rights.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We share the FA’s frustration with Fifa’s decision on this which puts players in a very difficult position.

“It is, ultimately, a decision for the FA.

“On LGBT rights more broadly, clearly Qatar’s policies are not those of the UK Government and not ones we would endorse.”