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LGBT+ groups condemn Fifa over OneLove armband sanctions threat

LGBT+ rights activists and campaigners have condemned Fifa’s threats to impose sanctions on players who wear OneLove armbands at the World Cup in Qatar.

England, Wales and five other European nations have confirmed their players will not wear the armband, saying the football governing body had made it clear their captains could be booked or forced to leave the pitch if they did so.

The move was criticised by LGBT+ groups, with mixed reaction as to who was to blame.

Stonewall, the LGBT+ charity, said on Twitter: “By threatening sporting sanctions & stopping players from wearing #OneLove armbands, Fifa are brushing criticism of human rights abuses under the carpet.

“LGBTQ+ people are criminalised in Qatar just for being themselves. No country which abuses the human rights of its people in this way should have been awarded with the honour of hosting a major sporting tournament in the first place.

“We appreciate all the @England and @Cymru players’ efforts to draw attention to the appalling human rights abuses of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, and we urge them to continue to speak out in Qatar as best and safely as they can.”

Pride in Football, a network of LGBT+ fan groups in the UK, said on Twitter: “A token gesture from the start that has turned into another embarrassment from Fifa. Fifa have had since September to sort this, and yet they wait until now to threaten sanction. Fifa is denying players their fundamental and most basic human right to freedom of speech.

“Countries, teams and players are happy to defend LGBTQ+ people until they themselves are at risk. LGBTQ+ Qataris face a bigger punishment than just a yellow card. The gestures and the activism ended quite easily at the thought of reprimand.”

It added: “This World Cup is not for all, it has never been for all, and until it ends will not be for all.”

The group noted the murders of five people at a gay bar in Colorado Springs over the weekend, adding: “Now was the perfect opportunity for people with a massive platform – that of the World Cup – to stand in solidarity with the community. But it’s fallen apart. Actions speak louder than words, and these actions suggest the risk of a yellow card is more important than the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar.”

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Peter Tatchell, the director of the human rights organisation Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: “The OneLove armband was the tiniest of gestures. It did not even specifically mention LGBT+ people. It was a weak campaign but even that was too much for Fifa, who have bullied the England team to not wear it.

“Two days ago Fifa’s president spoke of inclusivity but this ruling shows his true colours. I urge the team captains at their post-match press conferences to spend just 30 seconds to speak out for the rights of women, LGBTs and migrant workers. That would have a huge impact, reaching a global audience of hundreds of millions of people.”

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