Nine nations, including England's Harry Kane and Gareth Bale of Wales, had planned to wear the rainbow symbol, OneLove, on their kits to promote diversity and inclusion – but will now not do so.
There had been been reports that players could be booked before kick off for wearing the armband on their shirt– with two bookings potentially resulting in a one match ban.
England and Wales and a host of other European nations will not wear an anti-discrimination armband in their World Cup matches after FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions but Harry Kane had been due to wear the OneLove armband against Iran, while Wales skipper Gareth Bale was due to wear it in the match against the United States.
But now both will not, with legal action now being considered. Here’s everything you need to know.
OneLove armband: What is a OneLove armband? And what do they represent?
England, Wales and other European nations had planned to wear the rainbow armband to promote diversity and inclusion during the World Cup, however this has seen FIFA launch its own armband initiative for the tournament without any rainbow armband, with same-sex relationships and the promotion of same-sex relationships criminalised in Qatar. The band contains the rainbow colours associated with the Pride flag and had been set to be a strong statement in Qatar due to their stance on same-sex relationships.
European nations will now not wear the armbands after FIFA asked them not to.
FIFA confirmed its armbands would be worn as part of a partnership with United Nations agencies, and the Football Association is understood to be seeking clarity on whether that and the ‘OneLove’ version can be worn together.
While it respects the FIFA-UN initiative, the FA intends to continue supporting the ‘OneLove’ campaign regardless, in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
On Saturday, FIFA launched its own armband initiative in partnership with three United Nations agencies.
The armbands will feature a different social campaign throughout each round, including #NoDiscrimination, #SaveThePlanet, #ProtectChildren, #EducationForAll and #BeActive.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said the situation regarding the armband in support of gay rights “simply isn’t fair”.
“Today the ground rules changed and Fifa were threatening sanctions that would have affected individual players, penalising players,” he told the BBC.
“That simply isn’t fair.”
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, asked about the armbands controversy said: “As a squad we all had conversations and we all stand for it. We all wanted Harry to wear it, but I think the decision got taken out of our hands as a squad and as players. It went higher up than that really.”
OneLove armband: BBC pundit Alex Scott appears on air wearing the OneLove armband following FIFA warning
OneLove joint statement
A joint statement from seven European nations who had signed up to the One Love campaign – which included England and Wales – confirmed the armbands will no longer be worn.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the statement began.
“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.
The statement continued: “We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.
“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response.
“Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
OneLove armband protest
Germany’s players took part in a protest covered their mouths during a team photo ahead of their 2-1 defeat against Japan to show “Fifa is silencing us” by shutting down attempts to wear rainbow-coloured armbands connected to the OneLove campaign.
A tweet from the German federation read: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.
“It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
Football Supporters’ Association express contempt for FIFA over OneLove stance
The Football Supporters’ Association expressed its “contempt” for FIFA after plans by England and Wales to wear anti-discrimination armbands were dropped under threat of sporting sanction.
FIFA has issued its own armbands to be worn by the 32 competing nations instead, and the FSA issued a furious statement in response, paraphrasing the bizarre ‘Today I feel gay’ speech from FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino on Saturday.
“To paraphrase FIFA president Gianni Infantino – today LGBT+ football supporters and their allies will feel angry,” a statement read.
“Today we feel betrayed. Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance.
“Never again should a World Cup be handed out solely on the basis of money and infrastructure. No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.
“Since 2010 we have been raising questions about the suitability of Qatar as a World Cup host. Everyone could see this coming and it’s astonishing that, on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, FIFA are trying to censor players for sharing a positive message.”
OneLove: What has been said about the OneLove armbands?
In the past, a players’ union chief said that banning anti-discrimination armbands at the World Cup in Qatar would send out a “devastating” signal.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said it is up to the English and Welsh captains whether they wear the “OneLove” armband at the World Cup.
Asked if Mr Kane and Welsh captain Gareth Bale should wear the armband, Mr Jenrick told LBC: “I think that’s a choice for them and I respect their judgment.
“They’re both great team captains and we’ll be cheering on England and Wales over the course of the tournament.
“It’s their judgment and I think it’s a valid point that we make the case for LGBT rights.”
Chief executive of the FA Mark Bullingham has told the BBC that the FA is willing to take a fine, but said that it has left the players in a difficult position. He told BBC Radio Four: "We've been clear that we want to wear the armband.
"It is important to us, but equally we need to work through all the discussions right now and see where we end up.
"We're very keen to wear the armband, we want to do it, but we need to consider the implications. Normally, in this kind of situation, there'd be a fine and we've said we'd be prepared to pay that, because we think it's important to show our support for inclusion.
"If the sporting sanction threat is real then we need to look at that, step back and work out if there's another way in which we can show our values."
Noel Mooney, the Football Association of Wales chief executive, said it was "seeking clarifications" from Fifa while Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said gay rights is an issue he has “brought up over a number of years” with Qatar.
He told the BBC: “I’ve made it clear that we feel very strongly about this issue and, actually, one of the advantages about having a strong relationship with other countries is you can have these difficult conversations.”
Fifa stance on rainbow flags and hats
The Football Association of Wales (FAW) said the governing body has confirmed fans will be allowed to enter with the items for the clash with Iran after they confiscated them ahead of Wales’ 1-1 draw with the USA.
The FAW urged Fifa to stick to their message that “everybody will be welcome” in Qatar during the tournament after the first week was marred by its handling of LGBTQ+ symbols.