Sports minister to wear OneLove rainbow armband at England-Wales World Cup clash

Sports minister Stuart Andrew will wear the rainbow-coloured armband prohibited by Fifa when he attends the World Cup clash between England and Wales in Qatar.

The Conservative frontbencher, who is gay, said it was “really unfair” that football’s governing body prevented the captains of England and Wales donning the OneLove anti-discrimination armband at the 11th hour.

Seven European countries, including the two home nations, abandoned plans to wear the anti-discrimination symbol after Fifa threatened sporting sanctions.

Mr Andrew’s decision to wear the armband risks upsetting the World Cup’s Qatari hosts, with homosexuality still illegal in the Gulf state.

Fans attending matches earlier in the tournament also reported having rainbow items, including T-shirts and Wales bucket hats, confiscated by officials before Fifa later insisted they should be allowed in stadiums.

Mr Andrew told ITV News: “I will most definitely be wearing the OneLove armband.

“I want to show support and I was delighted to see that the German minister who attended a recent match has worn it, I think it is important that I do so.

“And I think it’s been really unfair on the England and Welsh team that at the 11th hour they were stopped by Fifa from doing it.”

2022/23 England men’s kits Handout Photo
England’s Harry Kane wearing a OneLove captain’s armband before Fifa threatened sanctions over the symbol (The FA/PA)

Mr Andrew said Qatari laws meant LGBTQ+ fans had been excluded from the World Cup.

He said: “These games should be a celebration show and for all football fans to enjoy. But sadly so many of them are feeling that these are not.

“This is not a tournament for them. I met with LGBT football supporters, and it was really distressing to see actually how emotional they got that they couldn’t be. They didn’t feel they could be part of this and that is not acceptable.”

Mr Andrew also told the Evening Standard that he had considered boycotting the tournament, but said he has a “responsibility” to go.

He told the newspaper: “This has been a decision I’ve thought long and hard about because it is a very deeply personal decision.

“I have done a lot of work before this tournament started. I met with the Qatari ambassador and had a very frank conversation about what does ‘everyone is welcome’ actually mean.

“I have a responsibility to go there and see for myself that is actually what has been delivered on the ground. And if it isn’t in any way then to challenge that.”

Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething, who is in Qatar promoting Wales and its business interests at the World Cup, said: “Stuart Andrew needs to make his own choices, and he’s in a different position, this is very personal for him and I understand that.

“So I’m not going to criticise him for the choices he makes.

“We will carry on doing what we’ve done, as I say being positive and promoting Wales and our values.”

Mr Gething was at an event at Katara Cultural Village in Doha on Monday, to see a mural created by Welsh artists there, wearing a rainbow flag badge.

PA understands Mr Gething will be wearing the badge at Tuesday’s match and possibly a rainbow coloured lanyard.

“I’m often seen walking around the Senedd wearing this badge or my lanyard, it’s a regular feature. And for me it’s about allyship,” he added.

FIFA World Cup 2022
Former Wales team captain Laura McAllister, who is an ambassador for Wales at the World Cup (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Laura McAllister, a former Wales captain who is in Qatar as an ambassador for the country, said: “It’s up to every nation to do what they can to promote diversity and equality and important everybody stands up for what’s important to them.”

Ms McAllister was prevented from entering the stadium wearing her rainbow coloured bucket hat during Wales’ first match against the USA.

But she said she was allowed through with no issues during the country’s game against Iran – although adding that she had heard a fan had been asked to remove a rainbow armband once inside the stadium.

England and Wales meet at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday for their final group B fixture.

The Three Lions currently top the group and need just a point to guarantee their progress to the knockout stages while Wales must win and hope for a favourable result between Iran and the USA.