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World Cup Teams Scratch Pro-LGBT OneLove Armbands After FIFA Threatens Sanctions

In addition to yellow cards, world football’s governing body also hinted at more aggressive penalties for players who wear unapproved apparel on the field.

Captains from seven European nations competing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar announced Monday they won’t sport pro-LGBT armbands while on the pitch after receiving threats of possible sanctions from FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.

Ahead of their opening matches, England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland planned to wear the OneLove rainbow bands to promote diversity and inclusion on the world’s biggest stage. In a joint statement released Monday, the respective federations say they would accept any fines that were to be levied.

After it became apparent FIFA would reserve the right to impose harsher rulings, they completely scrapped the idea.

LGBT relationships are not recognized under Qatari law and sexual behavior between men is illegal, as is openly demonstrating or campaigning for LGBT civil rights causes.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband,” the federations said. “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 OneLove armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response.”

FIFA may have banned participating teams from wearing the band, but they didn’t say anything about media members showing solidarity. BBC Sport presenter/commentator Alex Scott was spotted promoting the OneLove campaign Monday morning ahead of England’s 6-1 thrashing of Group B opponent Iran:

The OneLove initiative was originally devised by the Dutch national team, and in September garnered participation from 10 European sides during international play, including in the UEFA Nations League competition. The Netherlands were also the first to report publicly that captain Virgil van Dijk would not wear the armband ahead of the side’s opening World Cup match against Senegal.

“Hours before the first game, it has been made clear to us from FIFA (officially) that the captain will receive a yellow card if he wears the OneLove captain’s armband,” the KNVB, the country’s football association, said in their statement. “We deeply regret that it was not possible to reach a reasonable solution together. We stand for the ‘OneLove’ message and will continue to spread it, but our No. 1 priority at the World Cup is to win the games. You don’t want the captain to start the match with a yellow card. That is why it is with a heavy heart that we as a UEFA working group, KNVB, and as a team had to decide to abandon our plan.”

Once the aforementioned countries disclosed they wouldn’t don the OneLove bands, FIFA attempted to rectify their decision by making the “No Discrimination” armband available throughout the competition. It was originally reserved to be worn starting with the quarterfinal stage.

“Following discussions, FIFA can confirm its ‘No Discrimination’ campaign has been brought forward from the planned quarterfinals stage in order that all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear this armband during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” the statement read.

“This is in line with Article 13.8.1 of the FIFA Equipment Regulations, which state: ‘For FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each Team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.'”

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