Fifa faces court action over World Cup OneLove armband ban

Fifa faces court over England OneLove armband row - England's Harry Kane with UEFA One Love armband during the UEFA Nations League Group C Match at San Siro Stadium, Italy - PA/Nick Potts
Fifa faces court over England OneLove armband row - England's Harry Kane with UEFA One Love armband during the UEFA Nations League Group C Match at San Siro Stadium, Italy - PA/Nick Potts

The German Football Association (DFB) has warned Fifa it faces court action over the OneLove armband ban.

Legal steps are being explored by the national governing body who are part of a European collective with England and Wales.

The DFB's media director Steffen Simon told German Deutschlandfunk radio described how the likes of the FA were facing "extreme blackmail" of "massive sanctions" from Fifa. England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had already said they had been put under pressure by Fifa, who had threatened to issue yellow cards.

As a result Harry Kane wore the Fifa-approved "no discrimination" band in a last minute switch on the day of the 6-2 victory over Iran.

DFB spokesman Stefan Simon told German newspaper Bild that it had lodged a case over legal validity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

“Fifa has forbidden us from using a symbol of diversity and human rights," he said. "It said the ban would be linked to massive penalties (in the nature of) sporting sanctions without concretising exactly what it meant. The DFB is keen to clarify whether Fifa’s procedure is in fact legitimate."

Kane complained on Monday that the FA's decision to back down had been “taken out of my hands”.

The captains of seven World Cup nations, including Kane and Gareth Bale of Wales, had repeatedly vowed to wear the armband in support of LGBT rights in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

But hours before kickoff, Fifa threatened "sporting sanctions" against any player who defied their rules. Two yellow cards would have seen Kane suspended for England’s final group game.

Following a morning of crisis talks, a joint statement from seven football associations said they could not put their players "in a position where they could face sporting sanctions".

"We are very frustrated by the Fifa decision, which we believe is unprecedented," the statement read.

Vertonghen hits out at Fifa over OneLove

Jan Vertonghen has claimed players are being “controlled” at the Qatar World Cup as the Belgium defender hit out at Fifa’s decision to ban teams from wearing the OneLove armband at the tournament.

Belgium were one of seven European teams whose captains were due to wear the armband – an anti-discriminatory symbol designed to promote inclusion – at the tournament in protest at Qatar’s criminalisation of homosexuality.

But Fifa’s threat to book players who wore the armband led to that alliance of national associations – Belgium, England, Wales, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands – abandoning the plan.

Fifa have received widespread condemnation for their stance while the countries planning to protest have been criticised for wilting under pressure from football’s world governing body and not sticking to their guns.

Now Vertonghen has waded into the debate by questioning how Fifa could oppose a campaign that challenges discrimination.

Speaking ahead of Belgium’s opening Group F match against Canada on Wednesday, the Anderlecht and former Tottenham defender said: “It's a tough question. If it’s too late [to make a statement against discrimination], I don’t know. If you make a statement now by wearing it, that would mean punishing yourself.

“But now I’m afraid to say anything. I don't feel comfortable saying anything, and that's telling enough, that we are put under pressure.

“That’s a regrettable situation that I’ve never experienced in football and I hope I won’t experience again. We are being controlled and I don’t really like making political statements anyway, but if you can't even wear a captain’s armband with normal messages like ‘no to racism’, or ‘no to discrimination’, then hey what [can you say]?

“I shouldn’t be saying anything about it because tomorrow I want to appear at the game. It’s a pity that we have been put in this situation, and I want to leave it at that.”

Fifa faces court action over England OneLove armband ban - Belgium's defender Jan Vertonghen gives a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha, on November 22 - Getty Images/Jack Guez
Fifa faces court action over England OneLove armband ban - Belgium's defender Jan Vertonghen gives a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha, on November 22 - Getty Images/Jack Guez

Hansi Flick, the Germany coach, felt they were backed into a corner by England and Holland’s decision to back out and wishes the protest had been seen through, despite the threat of sanctions.

“Together with the other countries the team wanted to take a stand,” Flick said. “Now Fifa have threatened us with sanctions and the associations that played yesterday. It was very short notice. If you want to run a campaign like this together, you should really stick to your decisions.

“There is no point now taking action, it is a shock for the team that we are not allowed to do it as it was taking a stand and showing the values we represent. The values I represent as well as the team is based on mutual respect and appreciation, that is part of life and I expect that from everybody. Some parties see it differently.

“We talked about it. A yellow card can happen. If [Joshua] Kimmich [the Germany captain] then has to leave the pitch, we have options. However it is unclear, and the mere threat of sanctions was something that was difficult for us, especially as it was so short notice ahead of the first games of England and Holland. We didn’t have time to react. The associations decided to not take anything from the players, taking the responsibility off their shoulders. I’m sorry we can’t even be here and take a stance for human rights, apparently.”

Kimmich believes wearing the armband would have sent a strong message. “I was barely involved, it was a decision of the FAs and supported by everyone – England, France and all the others,” he said.

“Generally speaking I was quite surprised as a couple of weeks ago when we discussed the armband I felt people were criticising, that people thought it was pointless and just a fig leaf but I think it is a strong stance to take.”