The captains of several European teams will not wear OneLove armbands at the World Cup in Qatar due to the risk of receiving yellow cards.
England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Wales should join the OneLove campaign to promote inclusion and fight discrimination.
But the associations of those countries said in a statement on Monday that the armband – which features a striped heart of different colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities – would not be worn in Qatar.
“FIFA [football’s global governing body] It was very clear that if our captains wear the armbands on the pitch, sporting sanctions will be imposed,” the joint statement said.
“As national federations we cannot put our players in a situation where they face sporting sanctions, including warnings, so we have asked captains not to attempt to wear the armbands at FIFA World Cup matches.”
“We were willing to pay fines that would normally be imposed for gear violations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they are cautioned or even forced to leave the field,” the statement added.
The decision not to present the armband in Qatar comes hours before England’s opening game against Iran, while Wales take on the United States and the Netherlands against Senegal on Monday.
The countries said they were “frustrated” by what they felt was an “unprecedented” decision by FIFA to sanction captains should they wear the armband.
“We wrote to FIFA in September to say we would like to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, but have not received a response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong advocates of inclusion and will show their support in other ways.”
France have been part of the season-long campaign but last week captain Hugo Lloris told reporters he would “respect” the local culture during the tournament.
The Dutch Football Association, meanwhile, said on Monday it was “deeply disappointed” that captain Virgil van Dijk would be given a yellow card if he wore the armband on the pitch.
Ahead of the World Cup, Qatar – where homosexuality is illegal and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison – has come under criticism for its stance on LGBTQ rights.
A Human Rights Watch report released last month documented instances as recently as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and “abusing them in custody.”
However, the country has insisted that “everyone is welcome” at the tournament, adding in a statement to CNN this month that “our track record has shown that we have given all people a warm welcome, regardless of their background”.
In a statement sent to CNN last week on behalf of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), which has been responsible for overseeing infrastructure projects and planning for the World Cup since its inception in 2011, it said is committed to “an inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup, noting that the country has hosted hundreds of international and regional sporting events since the World Cup was awarded in 2010.
Before countries announced their captains would not wear the armband in Qatar, FIFA put forward their own “No Discrimination” campaign, saying all 32 captains would have the option to wear a campaign-associated armband.
“I spoke to the country about this issue [Qatar] highest leadership,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a press conference on Saturday.
“You have confirmed, and I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If someone says the opposite, that is not the opinion of the country and certainly not the opinion of FIFA.”
FIFA’s decision to sanction players for wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband has nonetheless sparked anger as the Football Supporters’ Association, which represents football supporters in England and Wales, said it felt ‘cheated’.
“Since 2010 we have been asking questions about Qatar’s suitability to host the World Cup,” the FSA said in a statement.
“Everyone could see this coming and it’s amazing that on the morning of the World Cup opener in England, FIFA is censoring players… who want to spread a positive message.”
Meanwhile, Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, pointed out that “agreements on armbands and better protection for LGBT communities should have been reached a long time ago”.