The Football Association showed its backing for LGBTQ+ rights by lighting the Wembley arch in the rainbow colours during England’s clash with the United States.
Gareth Southgate’s men were playing more than 4,000 miles away from their national stadium but made the gesture just four days after the row over Harry Kane wearing the controversial OneLove armband as part of a campaign to highlight gay rights and workers’ conditions in host country Qatar.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said Fifa informed the England team minutes before they were due to leave for their 6-2 win over Iran that Kane would face “unlimited” disciplinary action on top of a yellow card for wearing the armband.
England players have been taking the knee to show their stand against discrimination, although Southgate has insisted his players would not rush to make similar protests to the German players who covered their mouths during the team photograph ahead of their first game of the tournament. The FA, however, gave the green light to the iconic Wembley arch being lit in the colours traditionally associated with the gay community.
In an interview with ITV Sport, Bullingham revealed that Fifa told the FA just minutes before they were due to leave for their opening World Cup match that any player wearing a rainbow armband in support of LGBT rights would face “unlimited” disciplinary action on top of a yellow card.
On the Fifa punishment for wearing the armband, Bullingham told ITV: “It’s very important to understand what happened here. We have been clear that we wanted to wear it and we were committed. We announced that we would do that in September, we had a lot of meetings with Fifa over that period and on Saturday before the game we felt we’d reached an understanding where we would wear it. We hadn’t got permission but we would face a fine for it.
“On the day of the game they gave us 10 minutes notice – two hours before we were due to go to the game… they came here with five officials and they ran us through a scenario where at a minimum anyone wearing the armband would be booked and face disciplinary action on top of that.”
He added: “It was unlimited. They would take disciplinary action against any player that was wearing the armband on top of having a yellow card.”
Bullingham added that the FA was told Kane would face a ban for further games.
“We felt that we couldn’t put the players in that position,” he said. “That’s not just not a scenario we could put them in.”