England captain Harry Kane could have faced tougher sanctions than picking up a yellow card for wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband in the World Cup opener against Iran, as manager Gareth Southgate said the team remained committed to support the LGBTQ+ community.
Southgate has not ruled out his England team making a gesture to highlight human rights concerns in Qatar, as other nations have done, but says he will not be pressured to do so.
The German squad covered their mouths for the team photo ahead of their opening World Cup match against Japan on Wednesday, while the Australian squad released a video highlighting the host country’s woes.
Seven European nations competing in the World Cup – including Germany, England and Wales – planned to wear OneLove anti-discrimination armbands during the tournament, but were dissuaded from doing so following the threat of FIFA sporting sanctions.
The PA news agency understands that the sporting punishment for Kane – as well as Wales captain Gareth Bale and other nations who signed up for the campaign – if he had worn the OneLove armband could have been harsher than just a card yellow.
The yellow card would also have been issued in the dressing room before kick-off, meaning the captain could not have considered it a chance to show an act of defiance by wearing the armband.
“I don’t know all the pros and cons because I wasn’t at the meeting, but there was definitely a sense that there were sanctions and not all of them were really clear,” Southgate said.
“So the decision was taken out of Harry’s hands. The organization’s decision was not to wear the armband even in the locker room. There’s no discussion, it’s done.
“The player had no say in this. But what that looked like exactly I don’t know because I wasn’t at the meeting. Not something I wanted to spend any more time on.
“I noticed the Danish coach talking after the game and he felt he didn’t have enough bandwidth to handle the football. I think that’s the risk we all take.
“There was a plan (before Iran), we failed to carry out that plan. What do we do now? Do we all try to outdo each other in a gesture? However, it probably won’t be enough. It could probably be criticized.”
Southgate, whose side face the United States in their second game on Friday, said: “I don’t think we should feel any pressure. I think we’ve been talking about these specific topics for over a year now and we support all kinds of good causes, whether as individuals or as a collective.
“I think there’s a risk that everyone tries to climb, if we tried to make a better video than Australia, that would be impossible; if we try to invent a better gesture than Germany.
“I think we have to be comfortable knowing what we stand for. That’s not to say we won’t do something in the future if the timing is right, but I think if we’re racing to be seen doing something, we might make a mistake that doesn’t sit well.
“We want to support the LGBTQ community in particular and recognize that many of these people are not here with us and we wanted them to be here with us.
“I understand that it will be uncomfortable for people because I can be criticized, the captain was criticized, the organization will be criticized.”
PA news agency understands that Germany will not face any disciplinary action from FIFA under Article 11 of the code. It states that anyone “using a sporting event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature” can be sanctioned.
The OneLove group is considering legal options, but the German football federation confirmed that, as of Thursday morning, no appeal had been lodged with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Bale admitted that Wales were less than impressed by FIFA’s decision on the armband, but said he did not intend to stage a protest as Germany did.
The Wales captain told a news conference ahead of Friday’s match against Iran: “Yes, we weren’t very happy that we couldn’t use him with the sanctions that could have been imposed.
“I know people said we should just use it but I would have been kicked out after about 25 minutes. Of course we support it, but we are here to play football at the same time.
“Just not wearing the armband doesn’t mean we don’t support it. We are all for equality and we are trying to do the right thing, create that awareness.
“In terms of doing something else, I think when teams try to do something else and the result doesn’t come out the right way, they get criticized for not focusing on football, so for us now that the tournament has started we really need to focus. . in football ourselves. Outside of the game, if there’s anything we can do to raise awareness or support, we’ll definitely do it.
“We have ongoing campaigns that we fully support as an association and as a Welsh government. I want my players to be fully focused on playing football and winning games. I’m sure Germany now, in hindsight, will probably get the same message.”