The captains of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark have backed down on wearing ‘OneLove’ armbands at the World Cup under pressure from FIFA, the associations said in a joint statement on Monday.
FIFA has threatened to issue yellow cards to any player wearing the multi-coloured armband which was introduced to show solidarity with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.
England captain Harry Kane spoke on Sunday of his desire to wear the armband in Monday’s Group B opener against Iran.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” a joint statement said on Monday, hours before England’s match against Iran kicked off in Doha.
“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 move attracted swift and scathing criticism from groups representing the LGBT+ community.
“More than disappointing that @FIFAWorldCup and @FIFAcom silence and deflection means European captains face starting games with yellow cards for trying to highlight issues around human rights,” 3LionsPride, a group representing England fans, said.
“Their basic rights to freedom of speech & expression being crushed by FIFA.”
England’s Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) said it felt contempt for FIFA.
“To paraphrase FIFA president Gianni Infantino — today LGBT+ football supporters and their allies will feel angry,” it said.
“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.”
The nations’ joint statement said they were “very frustrated” by the FIFA decision which comes days after president Gianni Infantino said: “Today I feel gay,” during a long monologue aimed at media criticising the decision to host the World Cup in a country where homosexuality remains illegal.
“We believe [the decision] 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,” the statement said.
“Our players and coaches are disappointed — they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
FIFA launched its own captain’s armband campaign to promote different causes for each round during the tournament.
On Monday it said had brought forward its own “No Discrimination” from the planned quarter-finals stage in order that all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear their own armband during the tournament.
“This is in line with Article 13.8.1 of the FIFA Equipment Regulations, which state: ‘For FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each Team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.’” the world governing body said in a statement.
The Dutch Football Association said it had taken the decision with a heavy heart ahead of the Netherlands match against Senegal on Monday.
“You don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card. That is why it is with a heavy heart that we as a UEFA working group … and as a team had to decide to abandon our plan,” the KNVB said in a statement.
“This is completely against the spirit of our sport, which unites millions of people.
“Together with other countries involved, we will critically look at our relation with FIFA.”
According to FIFA rules, team equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images, and during FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each team “must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA”.
Wales said the countries involved had been prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations, but sporting sanctions had been a step too far.
“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.”
Wales captain Gareth Bale had been planning to wear the OneLove armband against the United States later on Monday.