Wembley lit up with Rainbow colours in protest over FIFA OneLove armband ban

Wembley lit up in Rainbow colours (FA)
Wembley lit up in Rainbow colours (FA)

England opted to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community by lighting up the Wembley arch in rainbow colours rather than protest in Qatar.

The Three Lions’ players did not follow Germany’s lead by making an on-pitch protest against Fifa before their World Cup clash with the United States at the Al Bayt Stadium, north of Doha.

Instead, the Football Association instead sent an off-pitch message of support via the national stadium in north London.

Germany’s players covered their mouths during a team photo ahead of their 2-1 defeat against Japan to show “Fifa is silencing us” by shutting down attempts to wear rainbow-coloured armbands connected to the OneLove campaign.

Several LGBT+ supporters have opted not to travel to the tournament in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the disciplinary action the team could have faced from Fifa for wearing the armband was “unlimited” and suggested they came under pressure from the governing body at late notice.

Carl Fearn, co-chairman of Gaygooners, Arsenal Football Club’s supporters group for LGBT fans, said: “This is a welcome, but small, gesture by the FA.

“It would, though, have had far more meaning if Fifa and Qatar had lived up to their promise of a warm welcome for all and allowed it to happen in Qatar rather than thousands of miles away in England.

“We recognise and appreciate the England team and the Wales team are on the side of LGBT+ football fans. Being prevented from showing their support in Qatar for all the OneLove causes is shameful.”

England fan Jim Noyce, 59, from Rugby, speaking ahead of the group B game with the US on Friday, told the PA news agency: “I think they’ll bide their time and pick the game they’re going to do it.

“Germany are playing Spain on Sunday, I think they’ll wear the rainbow and if Germany do, I think England will follow.”

Russell Dodd, 53, from Worksop, added: “I think football is football, sport is sport, and politics is politics.

“It seems to be we want to put our arm up and say we’re going to do this, we’re going to do the other, and when it comes to doing it, it doesn’t quite happen.

“So what’s the point in doing it to start with if you’re not going to fully commit?”

Seven European nations, including England and Wales, had hoped to wear the armband as part of a year-long OneLove anti-discrimination campaign in Qatar.

But they abandoned those plans when FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions, which started with a yellow card for the captains wearing them.

Craig Carter, 51, and Richard Copper, 49, were among a group of four friends originally from England, and now living in Adelaide, Australia, who have travelled to Qatar to watch 18 games in 10 days.

They posed for a photo together outside the Al Bayt Stadium holding an England flag containing badges of their teams including Manchester United and Leeds United.

The group noted security had appeared to have tightened since they first arrived, with Mr Carter pointing at the flag and saying: “They think this is a political statement.

“They couldn’t understand why we had different badges on, we’ve got Leeds, Villa, Man U and West Ham.”

Mr Copper, originally from Birmingham, added: “On the whole, it’s been brilliant.”

Elsewhere, Wales fans said they were “devastated” after a last-gasp defeat left the team on the brink of World Cup elimination.

Supporters who made the long journey to Qatar to see Wales’ first World Cup appearance in 64 years admitted their side was not good enough as they were defeated 2-0 by Iran at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Friday.

Many of the Red Wall remained to cheer on their national side after the final whistle and a chorus of ‘Yma o Hyd’, the team’s official World Cup song, rang out as players left the pitch.

Others said they felt for manager Rob Page after witnessing his family in tears at the end of the match.

A number of supporters in the crowd wore rainbow-coloured hats and other items, despite some having them confiscated at the game against the USA on Monday.

On Thursday, the Football Association of Wales said Fifa had confirmed that fans will be able to wear rainbow garments inside stadiums and urged the body to “to adhere to their message that everybody will be welcome in Qatar”.