England and Wales plan to defy Fifa with OneLove armbands at World Cup

England and Wales plan to defy Fifa with OneLove armbands at World Cup

The England captain, Harry Kane, and his Wales counterpart, Gareth Bale, are to defy Fifa by wearing “OneLove” rainbow armbands in their World Cup matches, after the governing body launched its own “social campaign” on the eve of the tournament.

Fifa has asked that all captains wear a different armband on each match day, promoting social messages such as “Football unites the world”, “Share the meal” and “Bring the moves”. The decision was announced months after a number of countries approached Fifa asking to wear rainbow armbands in Qatar as a gesture against discrimination and in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

They received no response to their request, with England and Wales both surprised by Fifa’s last-minute initiative on Saturday. But both FAs have reaffirmed their intention to wear the rainbow armbands, with the likely prospect that they will be fined for doing so.

Rule 4.3 of Fifa’s equipment regulations states: “No item (of playing kit or other clothing or equipment or otherwise) may be worn or used in any controlled area if Fifa considers that it is dangerous, offensive or indecent, includes political, religious, or personal slogans, statements, or images, or otherwise does not comply in full with the laws of the game.”

Fifa said of its campaign: “Messaging opportunities will be provided to the participating teams via the team captains’ armbands during matches, with supporting content being displayed on LED screens around the pitch, on giant screens and on flags in the stadiums, together with additional amplification on Fifa’s digital platforms and through media, stakeholders, and other public activities.”

During Saturday’s press conference in Doha, Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, was asked why the governing body had not publicly supported the rainbow armbands, and launched its own campaign instead.

“We have clear regulations on armbands,” Infantino replied. “We have and engage in campaigns on different topics, campaigns which are universal. We need to find topics that everyone can adhere to. This is an important element for us.”

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar and while organisers and Fifa have repeated the message that “everyone is welcome” in the country during the World Cup, there has been no clarity over whether laws that would criminalise acts such as holding hands in public have been suspended.

Lou Englefield of the LGBTIQ Human Rights Sports Coalition said Infantino was wrong to suggest LGBTQ+ rights were not a universal topic. “We believe that the safety and security of LGBTIQ people at this World Cup has been a huge issue, to have rainbow armbands would be a strong, widely recognised and progressive message of inclusion”, she said. “Infantino is wrong. It’s a global issue, right for every organisation.”

Fifa announced on Saturday it was partnering with three United Nations agencies – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization – to run social campaigns throughout the tournament.

The campaigns are as follows:

  • Group stage, round one: #FootballUnitesTheWorld
  • Group stage, round two: #SaveThePlanet
  • Group stage, round three: #ProtectChildren #ShareTheMeal
  • Round of 16: #EducationForAll #FootballForSchools
  • Quarter-finals: #NoDiscrimination
  • Semi-finals: #BeActive #BringTheMoves
  • Third-place and Final: Football Is Joy, Passion, Hope, Love and Peace – #FootballUnitesTheWorld