England and Wales captains will not wear LGBT+ armbands after FIFA threat
England's Harry Kane and Wales' Gareth Bale are among the captains told not to wear an armband expressing solidarity with LGBT+ people during World Cup games.
Fans groups and activists have slammed the last-minute decision, saying it has "shown the FIFA's true colours".
Kane and Bale were due to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband throughout the tournament in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
However, just hours before England's first game, the English FA, the Welsh FA and the football associations of four other nations said they would ask their captains not to wear the armband amid a threat of yellow cards.
A joint statement from the six football associations, issued on Monday morning, said: “FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. “As national federations, 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 in FIFA World Cup games." The associations said they were "very frustrated" with FIFA and had been prepared to pay fines for the armbands.
"We wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football and had no response," the statement finished.
In September, Harry Kane had said he was "honoured" to support the "important" OneLove campaign.
FIFA announced on Saturday its own plans for an armband to highlight a series of social campaigns at each stage of the tournament.
Discrimination had been due to be the theme for the quarter-finals but the global governing body confirmed on Monday, within seconds of the joint FAs’ release, that it had been brought forward.
It is understood that the FIFA armband is not rainbow-coloured.
Welsh fans react to the anti-discrimination armband U-turn
The FIFA statement added: “FIFA is an inclusive organisation that wants 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 which are known to everyone.”
The Football Supporters’ Association issued a scathing response.
“To paraphrase FIFA president Gianni Infantino – today LGBT+ football supporters and their allies will feel angry. Today we feel betrayed,” it read.
“Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance.
England's football team leave their hotel ahead of their World Cup opener against Iran
“Never again should a World Cup be handed out solely on the basis of money and infrastructure. No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.”
British LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell said that, with its threat of yellow cards, FIFA had "shown its true colours".
"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," he said.
Mr Tatchell urged team captains to speak out about the rights of women, LGBT+ people and migrant workers during their post-match press conferences.
Both England and Wales begin their bids for World Cup glory on Monday, with thousands of fans having travelled from the UK to Doha to watch.
Millions more supporters are expected to tune in back home as England open their group B campaign against Iran on Monday afternoon before Wales make their first appearance at the World Cup finals since 1958 against the US.
Both teams will be hoping to get off to a winning start and pick up points in their second games later in the week before facing each other next week for their final group stage fixture.
Almost 2,400 Three Lions fans applied for tickets for the Iran game via the England Supporters’ Travel Club and Wales expect more than 2,500 of their supporters to have made the trip.
Their ranks are expected to be swelled by fans in the region, with shuttle flights from Dubai and taxi trips from Saudi Arabia among the options for those heading to the tournament.
Rich Moran, 37, from Sleaford in Lincolnshire, said England should “go quite far” in the tournament if boss Gareth Southgate makes the right decisions on team selection and tactics.
“We’ve got the players to definitely win it, 100%," Mr Moran said from Doha.
“Quite a lot of the young players have had the taste of Euro 2020, so they know what to expect now, they’re not exactly fresh at it.”
He added: “They can handle the pressure. At the last World Cup against Croatia we switched off for two minutes and conceded two silly goals, as long as they don’t switch off again we should go all the way.”
Asked if the alcohol ban at stadiums was an issue, Mr Moran replied: “No, to be fair when I go watch Newcastle play I don’t buy beers there, so it doesn’t bother me.”
Elfyn Jones and his son Iestyn Morgan-Jones, from Aberystwyth in North Wales, said they were enjoying their stay in Qatar.
Mr Jones said: “Everyone has been very kind, pleasant and helpful, and it’s been nice to experience it and see people from all over the world.
“We’ve been dune buggying and walked along the Corniche, and we’re going to visit the cultural centre before the opening ceremony."
Former athlete Colin Jackson, who is an ambassador for Wales in Qatar, said he was most looking forward to “beating England”.
England and Wales go head-to-head at Al Rayyan Stadium on November 29.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford told reporters in Doha that the country should “dare to dream” and that he was optimistic about the national team’s chances of getting out of the group stages.
“The beauty of sport is that on the day, any team can win any game,” he added.
Controversy has surrounded the build-up to the tournament, with the Gulf state’s record on human rights and treatment of migrant workers under scrutiny.
Several LGBT+ supporters have opted not to travel to the gulf state where homosexuality is still illegal.
England players have also faced calls to use Monday’s game to raise awareness of anti-government protests in Iran-27/iran-thousands-of-demonstrators-gather-forty-days-after-mahsa-aminis-death.
These were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by police in the capital, Tehran, for allegedly not adhering to the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
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