England drop OneLove World Cup protest as statement released

World Cup reporter Dominique Metzger robbed live on air

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England have officially backed down from their decision to wear the OneLove captain’s armband in Qatar over fears that it would earn Harry Kane an instant booking before every match. The call was made just hours before kick-off in the Three Lions’ opening fixture against Iran on Monday. 

Kane planned to wear the rainbow OneLove armband at the World Cup in support of LGBTQ+ rights. Questions have been posed to Qatari organisers in the lead-up to the tournament, given that homosexuality is illegal in the host nation. 

Qatar had urged competitors to wear armbands focused on their own campaign, which will include messages such as “Football unites the world” and “Bring the moves”. England initially stood firm, along with a collection of other nations, in their desire to stick with OneLove and they wrote to World Cup chiefs several weeks ago to inform them as such, without receiving a reply. 

Many called for England to stick to their guns and accept the punishment dished out to Kane, while others suggested that the armband could be shared around to avoid the Three Lions captain getting an automatic ban later in the tournament. However, a statement released just three hours before kick-off on Monday confirmed that England had backed down.

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

“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.”

The statement was issued jointly with the federations of Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Wales, who had also planned to wear the OneLove armband in Qatar. Southgate and Kane both reiterated their desire to press forward with the armband campaign in a press conference this week but Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk was one of the first to suggest that the threat of a yellow card could be an issue. 

“I will wear the one love armband,” said the Liverpool star. “Nothing changed from our point of view. If I will get a yellow card for wearing it, then we would have to discuss it because I don’t like to play while being on a yellow.”

Meanwhile, England boss Southgate has confirmed that players will be taking the knee before kick-off against Iran. “We feel we should,” he said. “We think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world, especially for young people, that inclusivity is important.”

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