England captain Harry Kane and Wales skipper Gareth Bale will wear an anti-discrimination armband during their World Cup matches in Qatar this winter.
The Football Association has joined nine other European federations, including the Football Association of Wales, in supporting a season-long OneLove campaign against discrimination.
The captains of the eight countries who have qualified for the World Cup will wear the OneLove armband in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and the promotion of same-sex relationships, are criminalised.
Sweden and Norway – who have not qualified for the World Cup – will also support the campaign with their captains wearing the same armband during this month’s Nations League fixtures.
Kane will wear the armband for the first time in Friday night’s Nations League match against Italy. He said: “I am honored to join my fellow national team captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign.
Eight World Cup nations supporting OneLove campaign
“As captains we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination.
“This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching.”
Wales captain Bale said: “It’s wonderful to see the nations unite to support the OneLove campaign as we stand together against all forms of discrimination.
“We know the world will be watching us and this campaign emphasizes that everybody in football has at least one thing in common; their love for the game. By working together we can send a unified message that we are against any form of exclusion and discrimination .”
Bullingham: FA have been assured over LGBTQ+ fans
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham says he has been assured that LGBTQ+ England fans will not face arrest for holding hands in public at the World Cup in Qatar.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in the Gulf state, raising concerns within the LGBTQ+ community over how safe they will be at the finals this winter.
Bullingham says he has been told some fans from the community will stay away because they have simply run out of time to receive adequate assurances around accommodation.
But he said police in Qatar had been briefed to be tolerant during the tournament.
Asked whether the FA had planned for the scenario of an England fan being arrested for holding hands with a same-sex partner in public, Bullingham said: “We have been asking those questions of the Qatari authorities over the last six months.
“They have absolutely told us all the right answers for anything we’ve talked about, even down to the point of ‘are rainbow flags allowed?’
“Yes, absolutely (they are allowed) as long as someone doesn’t go and drape them on the outside of a mosque – that was one example we were given – and were disrespectful in that way.
“But they have absolutely been briefed to be very tolerant and act in the right way. Any time we ask a direct question we tend to get an answer.”
Bullingham said his organization was also lobbying the game’s global governing body FIFA for an update regarding a compensation scheme for migrant workers in Qatar and the creation of a center to help those workers access support.
“We continue to push for the principle of compensation for the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or have been injured in construction projects,” he said.
“Again, we are pushing FIFA for an update on the compensation fund which has been consistently referenced as a safety net where workers and their families have been unable to secure compensation from the construction companies.”
Analysis: Are FIFA going to allow armband at World Cup?
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“Harry Kane, England and the FA are in a little bit of a difficult position because I’m not sure they can come out and say what they firmly believe. They seem to be a little bit reticent but they’ve come out on Wednesday and said as far as LGBTQ+ rights are in Qatar, Harry Kane is going to be wearing this armband.
“It’s not a rainbow armband – it’s a new armband that says One Love on it and the number 1. We’re told it’s an anti-discrimination armband and Kane says we stand together against all forms of discrimination and this will send a clear message when the world is watching.
“We have to be very specific – when you go to the UK Government official website, there is travel advice for anyone traveling abroad, there is a section on travel advice for people traveling to Qatar, and it makes it clear: homosexual behavior is illegal in Qatar.
“Also, the website says that relationships outside of marriage and any intimacy in public between men and women can lead to arrests. Living together whilst unmarried is prohibited in Qatar. Sex outside of marriage, regardless of whether it is same-sex couples or opposite sex couples is illegal.This could lead to arrest or a potential court case where the judgment can include a fine, a custodial sentence and deportation once the sentence is complete.
“There’s no getting away from it – the World Cup is being held in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal. That’s not England’s fault, Kane’s fault nor the FA’s fault – FIFA decided to have the World Cup in Qatar.
“I’ve been to Qatar, I’ve spoken to the organisers, and I’ve asked them ‘will LGBTQ+ people be welcome in Qatar?’ They told me that everyone is welcome, but if you ask them specific questions, for instance, ‘could two men who are in a relationship book a hotel and check into the same room?’ The response to me has been, ‘go and try – see if you can do it’.
“Other journalists have tried and found it to be very difficult. Also, what the Qatari authorities have said is that any display of public affection is frowned upon in our country. When you come to our country, they say, you have to respect our values and our customs. The message that’s being sent out is that if you’re in a same-sex marriage and you’re going to the World Cup, you will be tolerated but you have to respect Qatar’s rules.
“Coming out with an armband… is it going to make much of a difference? I’m not so sure. It’s a gesture, but is anyone really going to notice it when they’re watching England games? I’m not And also, are FIFA going to allow it?
“FIFA’s rules are very clear when it comes to World Cups and what you can wear – even the armbands are usually supplied by FIFA. It’ll be interesting to see what FIFA have to say about this.”
Sky Sports News has contacted FIFA and Stonewall for comment.
FA calls for Qatar’s migrant workers to be compensated
The Football Association said on Wednesday families of migrant workers in Qatar who were injured or killed while constructing the infrastructure for this year’s World Cup should be compensated.
Qatar has faced intense criticism from human rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers, who along with other foreigners comprehend the bulk of the country’s population.
Human rights organizations including Amnesty International have called on FIFA to set aside £388m to support a compensation fund and help establish a migrant workers centre.
The amount is equivalent to the prize money on offer to teams at the World Cup.
The FA said a group of migrant workers had been invited to England’s World Cup training base at Al Wakrah to meet the players.
Amnesty welcomed the FA’s stance on discrimination and migrant worker rights.
The organisation’s head of priority campaigns, Felix Jakens, said: “The FA’s pledge to support efforts to remedy abuses suffered by thousands of overseas workers in Qatar – including with a Migrant Workers’ Center – could be significant, but we still need to see whether this is seriously taken up either by the Qatari authorities or by FIFA.
“Human rights issues have plagued preparations for this World Cup, and we’ve previously been disappointed by years of FA reticence and over-optimistic statements about ‘progress’ in Qatar.
“Unexplained migrant worker deaths, workers being cheated of their wages and others working extremely long hours are just some of the issues that Qatar’s patchily-enforced labor laws are still failing to address.
“Top-flight football is immensely rich and genuinely influential, and FIFA should have insisted on human rights clauses when it originally assessed Qatar’s hosting bid.”
Is offer to migrant workers a gesture that comes too late?
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“It’s not just issues of diversity and inclusion that the FA are talking about as they’ve also come out and said what their position is with regards to migrant workers. This is very controversial and I’ve been to Qatar and seen all the stadiums .
“They’ve been built in a lot of instances by people who had very few rights. People who are getting paid £10 a day to work in unbearable heat to build these stadiums. The FA have come out and said they’re lobbying FIFA .
“They want to see any workers who were injured and the families of workers who died building the infrastructure and the stadiums in Qatar and they want them to be compensated. They’ve talked about a fund of about £400m – roughly equal to the prize fund at the World Cup.
“They’ve also said that during the tournament some of those migrant workers can come out and visit the England team at their training base. Again, it’s a nice gesture, but is it really going to make a difference? Most of the workers have left. As a PR exercise, it is to be welcomed and it is something.
“A lot of people will be saying, ‘is this too little too late?'”