Three Lions captain Harry Kane was due to wear the rainbow armband to promote diversity and inclusion in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised, but the Football Association confirmed in a statement that they had backed down with Kane potentially set to be booked before the game even got underway.
In a joint statement, the FAs of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland - who had all been due to wear the armbands - 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.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.
“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – 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. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
As recently as Sunday, England skipper Kane and manager Gareth Southgate had shown their support for wearing the armband before the 11th-hour U-turn.
Kane said: “I think we’ve made it clear as a team and a staff and organisation that we want to wear the armband.
“I know the FA are talking to FIFA at the moment, and I’m sure by game-time they will have their decision. But, yeah, I think we’ve made it clear that we want to wear it.”
But FA chief executive Mark Bullingham had told BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning that a U-turn was a real possibility.
“It is a very live situation and there are discussions that are carrying on. We are working through those issues right now,” he said.
“It is true to say that FIFA did indicate yesterday that there could be sporting sanctions and that’s something which we’ve got to work through.
“We’ve been clear that we want to wear the armband, it is important to us, but equally we need to work through all of the discussions right now and see where we end up.
“We would need to consider the implications. Normally in this kind of situation, there would be a fine that would be paid and we’ve always said we would be happy to do that – happy might be the wrong word, but we would be prepared to pay the fine because we think it is important to show our support for inclusion.
“If the sporting sanctions threat is real then we need have to look at that and we would need to step back and see if there is another way in which we could show our values.”
In response to the nations withdrawing their intention to wear the OneLove armband, Fifa brought forward their own ‘No Discrimination campaign’ from the quarter-finals to the group stage, ensuring that “all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear this armband during the FIFA World Cup.”
A Fifa statement added: “The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 regulations, as approved by everyone in the game, 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.”
Meanwhile, the Football Supporters’ Association expressed its “contempt” for Fifa following the decision in a furious statement that paraphrased the bizarre ‘Today I feel gay’ speech from Fifa’s president Gianni Infantino on Saturday.
“To paraphrase Fifa president Gianni Infantino – today LGBT+ football supporters and their allies will feel angry,” a statement read.
“Today we feel betrayed. 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.
“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, worker’s rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.
“Since 2010 we have been raising questions about the suitability of Qatar as a World Cup host. Everyone could see this coming and it’s astonishing that, on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, Fifa are trying to censor players for sharing a positive message.”
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