European nations scrap One Love armbands plan due to fear of FIFA sanctions

England and Wales will not wear a rainbow-coloured anti-discrimination armband in their World Cup matches after FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions.

A joint statement from seven European nations who had signed up to the One Love campaign – which included England and Wales – confirmed the armbands would no longer be worn due to fear of a yellow card being issued.

Harry Kane instead wore FIFA’s ‘No discrimination’ armband – which is not rainbow coloured – as England started their campaign against Iran on Monday afternoon.

“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the statement began.

“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.

“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.”

Kane had been due to wear the One Love armband, while Wales skipper Gareth Bale was set to sport it in the match against the United States later in the evening. A suspension is issued after two bookings in this tournament, meaning had either player been booked ahead of kick-off, they would already be walking a tightrope.

The band contains the rainbow colours associated with the Pride flag and had been set to be a strong statement in Qatar, a country which criminalises same-sex relationships.

The statement continued: “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.”

The decision was another late one, following on from FIFA’s move to ban the sale of alcohol to fans at World Cup stadiums just two days before the tournament kicked off.

Alex Scott (right) holding the One Love armband
Alex Scott (right) holding the One Love armband (Martin Rickett/PA)

FIFA announced on Saturday its own plans for an armband to highlight a series of social campaigns at each stage of the tournament.

‘No 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.

FIFA has worked to receive assurances from the Qatari authorities that rainbow flags carried by supporters are allowed at stadiums and everywhere else.

The statement also reminded teams that “For FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.”

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.

“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.”

Players’ union FIFPRO added: “We principally disagree with the premise that captains would face sanctions impacting their ability to compete in the World Cup because of collective action that was carried by teams, federations and their leadership.

“Players must have the right to express their support for human rights on and off the field of play and we will support any of them who use their own platforms to do so.

“We maintain that a rainbow flag is not a political statement but an endorsement of equality and thus a human right.”