England backs out of wearing LGBTQ+ World Cup armband after yellow card threat

England and Wales will not wear the pro-LGBTQ+ OneLove armband at the Qatar World Cup after FIFA threatened that captains could face an instant yellow card. 

A joint statement from the Football Associations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, has confirmed the teams will not wear the OneLove armband as they had planned to at the World Cup in Qatar.

“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the associations said.

“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.”

Captains had planned to wear the OneLove armband in support of LGBTQ+ rights. The English FA had been prepared to pay a fine for captain Harry Kane wearing the arm band, but as the tournament got underway on Sunday (20 November), it emerged that Kane could also be booked for wearing the ban.

England plays its first game against Iran on Monday (21 November) at 1pm.

The FA and FIFA met Monday morning to seek clarity over possible “sporting sanctions”, Kane had said he was adamant on wearing the armband before the statement was issued.

In an earlier interview with BBC Radio 4, FA’s chief executive Mark Bullingham said the situation had changed.

He said: “Normally in this kind of situation there would be a fine that would get paid and we’ve always said we’d be very happy to do that. 

“Well, ‘happy’ might be the wrong word but we’d be prepared to pay the fine because we think it’s important to show our support for inclusion. If the sporting sanctions threat is real then we need to look at that. We need to step back and work out if there is another way in which we can show our values.”

The Athletic’s football journalist Adam Crafton, who is in Doha, Qatar, said it was inevitable that the armband would result in a yellow card.

“Ridiculous stuff going on with armbands. The rules have not changed. The threat of a booking has always been in the rule book.

“The only thing that could change is the commitment of the FA and England team to whether they care about speaking up for LGBT people. The rest is spin.”


Denmark’s manager, Kasper Hjulmand, confirmed he has not asked his captain Simon Kjær not to wear the armband. 

“First of all I think it’s not up to the players,” Hjulmand said. 

“Imagine going on the pitch with a clear yellow card to start with: that’s not possible and we have to make sure it’s not up to the players to make that decision. Sporting sanctions, not only economic sanctions but something that is to do with results – we can’t ask the players to go on the pitch with that. It’s the federation’s decision.”

In Qatar homosexuality is illegal and being found guilty of same-sex relations can result in a lengthy prison sentence, while under Sharia law it is possible for men to face the death penalty if they are found to have engaged in same-sex intimacy.