Gareth Southgate has not ruled out his England team making a gesture to highlight human rights concerns at the Qatar World Cup but says they will not be pressured into doing so.
The German team covered their mouths for the team photo before their opening World Cup match against Japan on Wednesday, while the Australia squad released a video highlighting issues in the host country.
Seven European nations competing at the World Cup – including Germany, England and Wales – planned to wear OneLove anti-discrimination armbands during the tournament, but were dissuaded from doing so following the threat of sporting sanctions from FIFA.
It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us.
Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position. pic.twitter.com/tiQKuE4XV7
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) November 23, 2022
Southgate, whose team face the United States in their second match on Friday, said: “I don’t think we should feel any pressure – I think we’ve spoken on these particular topics for over a year and we’ve supported all manner of good causes either as individuals or the collective.
“I think there’s a risk that everybody tries to escalate – if we tried to do a better video than Australia did, that would be impossible; whether we try to come up with a better gesture than Germany.
“I think we’ve got to be comfortable that we know what we stand for. That’s not to say we won’t do anything moving forward if the timing’s right, but I think we are rushing to be seen to be doing something, we could make an error that doesn’t land well.”
Southgate acknowledged that England have faced some criticism for dropping their plan to wear the armbands. Two other members of the OneLove group, Belgium and Switzerland, also declined to make gestures during their respective opening matches.
“We’re definitely highly supportive of our LGBTQ fanbase and I know some of them feel a little disappointed in terms of the armband not being worn,” added Southgate.
“We will be criticised for that, but sometimes we’ve just got to accept the criticism and move on with it. I think if we’re confident about ourselves and where we stand, we shouldn’t worry about needing to do something (in order) to be seen to be doing it.”
The PA news agency understands Germany will face no disciplinary action from FIFA under Article 11 of the code. It states anyone “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature” may be sanctioned.
The OneLove group is understood to be considering legal options, but the German football federation confirmed that as of Thursday morning no appeal had been lodged with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Meanwhile Amnesty International UK praised England’s show of “solidarity” with those affected by the human rights issues in Qatar, and urged England and Wales to reject FIFA’s robust rhetoric and make further statements.
Amnesty International UK’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: “It’s been heartening to see England players showing solidarity with LGBTQ+ people and exploited migrant workers in Qatar and it would be entirely understandable if they wished to do so again before the USA game, irrespective of FIFA’s heavy-handed attempts to suppress solidarity gestures at the tournament.
“Neither the English or Welsh FAs should meekly sit back and accept Gianni Infantino’s injunction for them to ‘focus on the football’.
“It’s time for all national football association at the World Cup to stand up and be counted on the human rights situation in Qatar, and this would take some of the pressure off the players and send a strong signal to FIFA that its stance on Qatar’s human rights record is unacceptable.”