England World Cup team 'blackmailed' into not wearing OneLove arm bands, German FA claims

England's Harry Kane wears a rainbow armband as he takes the knee at Euro 2020. Credit: AP

"Extreme blackmail" and "massive sanctions" forced England World Cup team to back down from their decision to wear anti-discrimination OneLove armbands that forced other European countries to follow, the German Football Association (DFB) has said.

The federations of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark U-turned on their stance to wear the heart-shaped, multicoloured logo in support of LGBTQ rights - a gesture that was seen as a snub to the host nation Qatar - after FIFA threatened to issue yellow cards to players wearing the armbands.

The German FA has told ITV News they are "considering" legal action and are talking to other European footballing bodies.

The captains of the seven European nations had vowed to wear armbands as part of the OneLove campaign which promotes inclusion and diversity. 

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, which has also been criticised for its treatment of low-paid migrant workers and women and its suppression of free speech.

But on Tuesday, a spokesperson for DFB told German radio that England had been threatened with sporting sanctions in a bid to stop them from wearing the bands.

Credit: AP

Media director Steffen Simon told German Deutschlandfunk radio: "The tournament director went to the English team and talked about multiple rule violations and threatened with massive sporting sanctions without specifying what these would be."

He said the other six nations then decided to "show solidarity" and not wear the armbands.

"We lost the armband and it is very painful but we are the same people as before with the same values. We are not impostors who claim they have values and then betray them," Mr Simon said.

"We were in an extreme situation, in an extreme blackmail and we thought we had to take that decision without wanting to do so."

He continued: "I can understand the disappointment. We had the choice between the plague and cholera."

Gareth Bale wearing the FA-approved 'No Discrimination' armband. Credit: AP

In a joint statement on Monday, the seven nations said: “As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings.”

No player had the rainbow armbands on Monday, although England's Harry Kane and Wales' Gareth Bale did wear the FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” armband that was offered as a compromise in the match with Iran and USA respectively.

England midfielder Jack Grealish criticised the decision to ban the armbands, telling ITV Sport: "Obviously we wanted to wear it. I think it's a bit stupid why we couldn't. Harry himself wanted to wear it, we all wanted Harry to wear it but sometimes in life and in football things are out of your control and there's not much you can do about it.

"I'll be honest with you, I actually haven't been in no meetings or anything about it. But from my point of view and everybody else's in there, we all wanted Harry to wear it but I read before that he might get booked so there's stuff out of your control.

"But from me and all the lads we wanted Harry to wear it. We feel strongly about it, we're with them [LGBT+ fans], we wish they were here with us. All I can say is we wanted to wear it, we feel the same way they do."

What has FIFA said?

FIFA's equipment regulations state: “For FIFA final competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA."

The soccer body's proposal, announced on Saturday, was for captains to wear armbands with socially aware, though generic, slogans. In that offer, armbands reading “No Discrimination” - the only one of its chosen slogan aligned with the European teams’ wish - would appear only at the quarterfinal stage.

On Monday, it offered the compromise that captains of all 32 teams “will have the opportunity” to wear an armband with the slogan “No Discrimination” in the group games.

FIFA also said the World Cup regulations exist to "preserve the integrity of the field of play for all participants and are equally applicable to all competing teams."

"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," it added on Monday.

President Gianni Infantino said: “I have been speaking about this subject with the country’s highest leadership.”

He added: “They have confirmed, and I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If anyone says the opposite, well it’s not the opinion of the country and it’s certainly not the opinion of FIFA.”