News, Culture & Society

FIFA ‘sent six officials to England team HQ and threatened drastic sanctions over OneLove armband’

FIFA allegedly sent six officials to the England football team’s headquarters on the day of their Qatar World Cup match against Iran and threatened them with drastic sanctions if players wore their ‘OneLove’ anti-discrimination armbands.

England’s football team had been planning to wear the LGBTQ+ armband along with other European teams such as Germany and Denmark before the campaign was dropped when FIFA threatened to hand out yellow cards to players.

The German Football Association (DFB) yesterday claimed that England and other teams were faced with ‘extreme blackmail’ or ‘massive sanctions’ that led to them dropping the gesture. 

And now, it has emerged that six FIFA officials were sent to the England football team’s headquarters on Monday ahead of their match against Iran to threaten ‘drastic sanctions’, reports Bild newspaper. 

The DFB’s President, Bernd Neuendorf, said today that they had written to FIFA to get a written statement on what sanctions players could face.

Neuendorf confirmed that FIFA had told them the referee would have handed out a yellow card to players who wore the anti-discrimination and LGBT rights symbol on their arm. 

He added that FIFA had threatened that they could escalate the issue to a disciplinary committee where further penalties could be imposed.

England’s football team had been planning to wear the LGBTQ+ armband along with other European teams such as Germany and Denmark before the campaign was dropped when FIFA threatened to hand out yellow cards to players. Pictured: Harry Kane wearing the rainbow armband

And now, it has emerged that six FIFA officials were sent to the England football team's headquarters (pictured) on Monday ahead of their match against Iran to threaten 'drastic sanctions'

And now, it has emerged that six FIFA officials were sent to the England football team’s headquarters (pictured) on Monday ahead of their match against Iran to threaten ‘drastic sanctions’

The DFB's President, Bernd Neuendorf (pictured in Qatar today), said today that they had written to FIFA to get a written statement on what sanctions players could face. Neuendorf confirmed that FIFA had told them the referee would have handed out a yellow card to players who wore the anti-discrimination and LGBT rights symbol on their arm

The DFB’s President, Bernd Neuendorf (pictured in Qatar today), said today that they had written to FIFA to get a written statement on what sanctions players could face. Neuendorf confirmed that FIFA had told them the referee would have handed out a yellow card to players who wore the anti-discrimination and LGBT rights symbol on their arm

Neuendorf told the German newspaper: ‘We wrote to Fifa before the game. We wanted binding, written statements: that the bandage is forbidden and what sanctions are to be feared.’

Neuendorf added: ‘Today we received an answer from Fifa that goes exactly in this direction. 

‘That means the referee would have to react [with a yellow card]. In addition, FIFA has stated that it reserves the right to appeal to the Disciplinary Committee in the event of such ‘offences’, which could then impose further penalties.’

But despite FIFA’s threats, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck counselled the German men’s national team to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband banned by FIFA as they prepare to face Japan at the World Cup on Wednesday. MailOnline has contacted FIFA for comment. 

‘I suppose you have to wear the armband now. I would maybe take my chances,’ Habeck told German public broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.

‘I would be interested to see what the referee does when someone with the armband comes over,’ Habeck said.

The rainbow armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

The federations of England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark had said on Monday they had been put under pressure by FIFA to not wear the armbands. They decided to drop the gesture amid threats of sanctions.

The teams have however come under fire at home for failing to take a stronger stand against FIFA’s stance on the armbands.

Amid the criticism, national team director Oliver Bierhoff suggested that some action by the German players may be possible.

BBC Presenter and former footballer Alex Scott is pictured wearing OneLove armband

BBC Presenter and former footballer Alex Scott is pictured wearing OneLove armband

‘We will see. This has preoccupied the players a lot,’ he told public broadcaster ARD on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who will attend the Germans’ opening game in the Qatari capital Doha, said FIFA’s ban was a ‘huge mistake’.

Not only players, but fans too should be allowed to show pro-LGBTQ symbols ‘openly’, she told reporters in Qatar Wednesday.

Security staff at the tournament have ordered spectators to remove items of clothing featuring rainbow logos.

Supporters should ‘make a decision for themselves’ about whether they wanted to wear the symbols, Faeser said.

Meanwhile, Germany’s top-selling Bild daily also urged the German team to make a public stand for diversity.

In a commentary, it said the ‘courage trophy’ can be won by those ‘who gives this World Cup back its dignity’.

‘A team that wears the ‘OneLove’ armband and which doesn’t simply caves in. A fan terrace that appears in rainbow colours, a sportsman who turns his national anthem in a song that honours both his country and freedom,’ it said.

It comes after the DFB’s media director, Steffen Simon, said yesterday that England, who had been the first team to be expected to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband on Monday, had been threatened with multiple sporting sanctions to prevent them from making the gesture in support of LGBT+ rights.

‘The tournament director went to the English team and talked about multiple rule violations and threatened with massive sporting sanctions without specifying what these would be,’ Simon said.

Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state and punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Pictured: England's captain Harry Kane is seen during England's World Cup Group B clash against Iran on Monday, wearing a more generic, FIFA-approved 'no discrimination' armband, instead of the planned 'One Love' armband - following FIFA pressure

Pictured: England’s captain Harry Kane is seen during England’s World Cup Group B clash against Iran on Monday, wearing a more generic, FIFA-approved ‘no discrimination’ armband, instead of the planned ‘OneLove’ armband – following FIFA pressure

Simon, who did not specify if he was referring to local organisers or FIFA in his reference to the tournament director, said the other six nations then decided to ‘show solidarity’ and not wear it.

‘We lost the armband and it is very painful but we are the same people as before with the same values. We are not impostors who claim they have values and then betray them,’ he said.

‘We were in an extreme situation, in an extreme blackmail and we thought we had to take that decision without wanting to do so.’

DFB president Bernd Neuendorf called FIFA’s stance ‘an unprecedented event in World Cup history’ and ‘a show of force’.

The reaction in Germany to the DFB’s U-turn has been one of scathing criticism, with supermarket chain REWE dropping its deal with the DFB.

The federation’s reputation has suffered in recent years with four previous presidents resigning amid corruption allegations and other scandals, or tarnished by them.

‘I can understand the disappointment. We had the choice between the plague and cholera,’ Simon said.

Now the German FA is considering taking legal action against FIFA to end its ban on wearing the armbands during the World Cup.

The DFB is planning to make a legal motion to the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) over FIFA’s ban, which has only added the wider criticism of its decision to award Qatar rights to host football’s largest international spectacle.

‘FIFA has banned us from showing diversity and human rights,’ a DFB spokesperson told Welt.

The DFB will be hoping that legal action will overturn FIFA’s decision to ban the armband in time to allow captain Manuel Neuer to wear it when the German national team faces off against Spain on Sunday – without him receiving a yellow card.

England midfielder Jack Grealish, who scored in England’s opening game of the campaign against Iran yesterday, hit out at the decision to ban the armbands.

He told ITV Sport: ‘Obviously we wanted to wear it. I think it’s a bit stupid why we couldn’t. Harry himself wanted to wear it, we all wanted Harry to wear it but sometimes in life and in football things are out of your control and there’s not much you can do about it.

The German FA is considering taking legal action against FIFA to end its ban on wearing the LGBTQ 'OneLove' armbands during the Qatar World Cup. Pictured: England's Harry Kane is seen wearing the armband in promotional photographs ahead of the World Cup

The German FA is considering taking legal action against FIFA to end its ban on wearing the LGBTQ ‘OneLove’ armbands during the Qatar World Cup. Pictured: England’s Harry Kane is seen wearing the armband in promotional photographs ahead of the World Cup

‘I’ll be honest with you, I actually haven’t been in no meetings or anything about it. But from my point of view and everybody else’s in there, we all wanted Harry to wear it but I read before that he might get booked so there’s stuff out of your control.

‘But from me and all the lads we wanted Harry to wear it. We feel strongly about it, we’re with them [LGBT+ fans], we wish they were here with us. All I can say is we wanted to wear it, we feel the same way they do.’

Asked after England’s winning game against Iran on Monday, Tottenham striker and England captain Kane also insisted he was disappointed by the decision.

He said: ‘Yeah, I think we’re disappointed. I turned up to the stadium with the armband that I did wear and I was told I had to wear that.’

The allegations of blackmail come as FIFA, despite implementing the ban on OneLove armbands, ‘reminded’ World Cup organisers Qatar about its policy of allowing items displaying the rainbow symbol into stadiums.

There were reports tournament staff had been stripping fans of bucket hats, T-shirts and flags bearing the pro-LGBT emblem.

Meetings have taken place with Qatar’s Supreme Committee – which is in charge of the tournament – where football’s international governing ‘made clear its stance’ that rainbow items should not be taken from fans, the i reported.

Incidents that had been reported to FIFA from Monday have been addressed, i was told, and talks remain ongoing.

BBC pundit Alex Scott wore rainbow armband for England game on live TV and declares: Boycotting Qatar World Cup is the ‘easy option’

England may have backed down but BBC presenter Alex Scott defied Fifa’s ban on the rainbow armband as she broadcast from pitchside yesterday.

It was decided at the eleventh hour that England captain Harry Kane would no longer wear the anti-discrimination and LGBT rights symbol against Iran following pressure from football’s governing body.

But BBC pundit Miss Scott took the opportunity to wear the OneLove armband pitchside yesterday at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha during the build up to the England game.

Miss Scott, a former England international with 140 caps, has been a vocal critic of Qatar’s treatment of LGBT people and the country’s human rights record.

‘And once again we reference Infantino from what he said: you are not gay, you will never understand travelling to a country where you are fearing for your life just because of your preference of who you choose to love,’ she said during the coverage of the opening game of the tournament on Sunday.

‘To keep saying that football is for everyone, that’s what he keeps feeding us with, but we sit here and it’s not [for everyone] because people have not been able to travel to watch their team and support their team out of fear.’

She insisted it would have been easy to boycott the tournament and that she went to the World Cup in Qatar because she wants to have the ‘harder conversations’.

Miss Scott said: ‘Actually I’ve had conversations saying, ‘I should be staying at home, I should be boycotting’ and I thought long and hard about it. I think for me personally that would have been the easy option to do just that.

‘I’m here because I love my job and, when I think about it, sitting here and having the harder conversations: we’re talking about the migrant workers, LGBTQ+ community, we’re talking about women’s rights.

‘You think about four years ago, I was the first female pundit for the BBC at a World Cup. You think how far we’ve moved in four years. Let’s hope, in the next four years, we’re never having to have these conversations again.’

Former England captain Rio Ferdinand hit out at the decision of teams to not wear the rainbow armband accusing the countries of ‘folding like a pack of cards’ following a bit of pressure.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk