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Is it time for The FA to just stay quiet?
As FIFA banned the ‘One Love’ campaign, The FA have made themselves look like a laughing stock by backing down at the first sign of trouble.
The World Cup has started if you hadn’t realised. Even if football isn’t your sport, I doubt you’ve been able to avoid all of the coverage. There has been roughly 11 hours of coverage across BBC and ITV, showing every group game so far. 4 a day. Beautiful.
Unfortunately it isn’t the football that has been grabbing the big headlines though since Qatar won the hosting rights back 2009. There were question marks over the bidding process and potential corruption in both Russia and Qatar winning.
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I’m going to continue on the assumption that you are aware of the scandal surrounding the bid, the building of the stadiums and questionable human rights record, purely for time. I could write a saga based on it.
Going into the tournament, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland all agreed that their captains would wear a ‘One Love’ captains armband whilst at the tournament. The captains armband would have a heart at the centre with the Pride colours, a show of solidarity with the LGBT community in a country where being found to be gay can result in death.
Qatari officials said that the LGBT community would be welcomed to Qatar, rainbow coloured flags and insignia would be allowed but the LGBT community was also asked to show respect to the natives as it was a conservative, Muslim country.
A fair compromise.
On the day of England’s first game against Iran, FIFA issued the nations participating in the One Love campaign with a notice. It said that any player who entered the pitch wearing a non-regulation captain's armband would be cautioned via yellow card and after the game would be sanctioned by FIFA, with no upper limit on punishment.
The FA gave in. ‘Well we tried but they said that they might give Harry Kane a booking and that would make Gareth very sad. He wants to ensure that there is no sort of excitement or entertainment from the England camp at all during this tournament. Whilst we were happy to support the Lionesses in the summer, many of whom are members of the LGBT community, sell England merchandise with rainbow branding and support the Stonewall rainbow laces initiative, we feel that now there has been the slightest push back from a footballing governing body (FIFA), we’ve decided it’s not actually worth the hassle. We don’t care about the gays as much as we care about making sure the money men are happy. Please look out for our commemorative rainbow England flags coming to the merch store soon. One Love’.
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Regardless of what you feel about Qatar and its human rights record (it’s not great), they do have their own laws where certain behaviour and lifestyles are prohibited. The World Cup offered an opportunity for us as a country to use our profile to advocate acceptance of the LGBT community. Imagine a little Qatari kid seeing Harry Kane wearing the ‘One Love’ armband and realising that there is a world out there that accepts them for who they love. They aren’t criminals.
Ok, maybe not Harry Kane, I doubt he's even the favourite footballer in the Kane household. But Virgil Van Dijk. Whoever.
But no, The FA decided to back down in cowardly fashion. It goes to show that money talks. You can have your preferred ‘ideals’ but if anyone comes along with enough money, you’ll happily change them. ‘If you don’t like these opinions, I have others’.
I just hope that in the future every FA inclusivity initiative is met with laughter. They have no concern for inclusivity. They had the option to defend it and they ran. Stop taking the knee, you’re making a fool of everyone watching. They are empty offerings in the hope you can commercialise it and make a profit.
From someone who has backed the use of football to spread positivity and inclusion in society, perhaps it's time to keep politics out of football.
Written by Tomas Browne
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