Support our Nation today - please donate here

Fifa accused of ‘sinister abuse of power’ over OneLove armband ban

25 Nov 2022 4 minute read
Close up of Wales’ Gareth Bale with the ‘One Love’ captains arm band. Picture by PA / Tim Goode

Fifa has been accused of a “sinister abuse of power” in the OneLove armband row by Kick It Out.

The captains of seven nations, including Wales and England, had been due to wear the rainbow-coloured anti-discrimination armbands at the World Cup in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

However, the plans were dropped when it became apparent in the hours before England’s first match of the finals against Iran on Monday that sporting sanctions would be imposed.

The PA news agency understands a booking to the captain wearing the band would have only been the starting point of the sanctions, with Harry Kane, Gareth Bale and the other five skippers also set to have been prevented from entering the pitch wearing it.

Germany protested against FIFA’s stance by covering their mouths for a team photo before their match against Japan on Wednesday, to highlight how they felt silenced. Wales have said they will not protest before their match against Iran on Friday, and it is unclear what England will do when they face the United States on Friday evening.

Gag protest

Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of Kick It Out, responded to a tweet suggesting the OneLove captains faced ‘unlimited liability’ over the armbands and wrote on Twitter: “What FIFA did is beyond failing to live their values and is a sinister abuse of power designed to silence – hence the German gag protest.

“I guess if you hang around with autocratic dictators long enough, you start picking up some of their habits.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino received an Order of Friendship medal from Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2019, and has been accused of bowing to the sensitivities of the Qatari state over the sale of alcohol at stadiums during the World Cup and in the armband row.

He also spoke in an extraordinary press conference last Saturday about how he had tried to take Women’s World Cup matches to North Korea.

Responding to Fifa preventing the armband being worn, Football Association of Wales chairman Noel Mooney said: “Months and months we’ve known that we were going to wear the OneLove armband, they (Fifa) certainly did, and to lay that one on us is pretty cheap and pretty low to be frank, and we’re really disappointed by that attitude.”

He added: “There was no way we could ask (Wales captain) Gareth Bale to take a yellow or red card at his first World Cup, how could we do that?

“We didn’t back down at all actually – we had to look at the sanctions there, we said we would accept any fines or sanctions that came, but when it turned to specific sporting sanctions that would have stopped our players taking the field of play potentially, that’s a different thing.”

“We’ve been absolutely furious about this, we’ve given Fifa everything we’ve got about how furious we are, we think it was a terrible decision.”

English FA

The English Football Association has rejected the suggestion that its chief executive Mark Bullingham skipped a meeting with FIFA where armbands were discussed in October.

The gathering on October 12 was attended by members of the UEFA Working Group on Qatar, which includes members of the OneLove group.

But it was not a full meeting of the working group and was called at short notice, with Bullingham committed to addressing 800 FA staff at a conference in person for the first time in two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The meeting was to discuss a range of outstanding issues, of which the armband was only one. The group was also seeking clarity on commitments related to a migrant workers’ support centre and compensation fund, and reassurances over the safety of LGBTQ+ fans in Qatar.

While the FA and other OneLove countries had not been given a clear answer, they arrived in Qatar braced for off-field sanctions in the shape of fines for wearing the armband.

That remained the position until Sunday, when rumours began to circulate that sporting sanctions would be imposed instead, something that was confirmed to the associations by FIFA on Monday.

“The meeting on October 12 was never a full meeting of the UEFA working group,” the FA said.

“It was a short-notice meeting with FIFA to try to resolve all the outstanding issues, of which the armband was one. Three countries represented the group at the meeting and the armband issue was not resolved.”

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

What’s that? Fifa?! Acting like corporate fascists? You mean those lovely men who have been leeching money from football for several decades now with a well-documented history of shady practices, usury, enabling problematic gambling practices and working with some of the biggest despots on Earth all in the name of “money, money, money, all of the money at any cost whatsoever” capitalism have turned out also to be abusing their position of wealth, privilege and power and helping the suppression of human rights and LGBTQIA people (of whom I am two of those letters) in particular? Wel, I am shocked,… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.