Euro 2020 Special

English FA Threatened with Severe Sanctions Over Armband by FIFA

It has been revealed that the English FA were threatened with “unlimited sanctions” by FIFA if players had taken to the field wearing “OneLove” armbands during World Cup matches.

The initiative, which originated in the Netherlands, and which was adopted by seven European nations at this World Cup was for the captains of their national teams to wear the armbands as a symbol of diversity and inclusivity,

However, the plans had to abandoned after it was revealed that any players wearing the armbands were threatened with bookings and even outright bans, whilst the respective Football Associations could have been hit with substantial fines.

It has driven a wedge between FIFA and many of the European teams in Qatar, with their President Gianni Infantino pouring more petrol on the fire with some inflammatory remarks.


FIFA threats

The English FA claim that they had numerous meetings with FIFA before the tournament started about the issue and thought that they had reached an understanding which would allow captain Harry Kane to wear the armband, in exchange for the payment of a modest fine.

However, on the day of their opening game against Iran, FIFA sent a five-man delegation to the team hotel and warned, that at a minimum, wearing the armband would mean an automatic booking, and further disciplinary action on top of that.

Faced with such sanctions and the risk of losing some of their best players to suspension, the European teams were forced to back down.


What is the “OneLove’ armband?

The ‘OneLove” armband contains the rainbow colours associated with the Pride movement and were intended to show support for the LGBTQ+ community in a country where same sex relationships are strictly taboo.

An unexpected beneficiary of the row have been the Dutch manufacturers of the armband. They sold out their entire stock after shipping 10,000 and have now ordered more to cope with the surge in demand.


Rainbow colours attract censure

In the early days of the tournament,` there had been widespread reports of people wearing rainbow coloured hats, apparel and other paraphernalia being asked to remove them before being allowed to enter stadiums for games in Qatar, although a number have been smuggled in past security guards.

However, such has been the furore, FIFA and Qatari officials have now caved in to the pressure and it has been confirmed that fans are now allowed to wear such articles.


The German protest

Following the banning of the armbands, the German players before their match with Japan, chose their won method of protest, choosing to cover their mouths with the hands during the team photograph to indicate that they had been gagged from speaking out.

The German FA (DFB) has also been exploring the legality of the FIFA position.


Infantino’s speech

Perhaps emboldened by the news he is due to be re-elected FIFA president for a third term, Infantino did not hold back in his speech on the eve of the tournament.

The speech though, only served to harden the battle lines in what has become a clash of cultures and ideas. He accused Western nations of gross hypocrisy and racism, claiming that they were in no position to give Qatar lessons about human rights given their current and past behaviour, stretching back 3,000 years in history.

He also claimed to feel “Arab”, “African”, “Gay” and “Disabled” even though he belongs to none of these groups.


A clash of cultures and ideas

Infantino’s speech went down well with Arab nations, and there has been widespread support among them for the stance taken against the human rights protests by the European nations. Some are of the view that, when somebody visits another person’s country, they should respect the local culture and not try to foist their own ideas and values on them.

Whilst there is merit to this argument, it ignores the fact that the World Cup does not belong to one nation, but is the property of the entire football family, regardless of colour, creed, religion or sexuality.

Discriminating against one group or section of the community is in direct contravention of the inclusive charter that FIFA is supposed to protect.

Unfortunately, this is in danger of becoming a public relations disaster for both FIFA and the hosts Qatar.

A World Cup is meant to bring everybody together. 2022 might be remembered instead, when countries, in sporting terms, became further apart than ever.




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