Football

The FA did not attend a crucial pre-World Cup meeting with FIFA to discuss banned One Love armband

EXCLUSIVE: The FA did NOT attend a crucial pre-World Cup meeting with FIFA to discuss the banned One Love armband – with England fearing their opening clash with Iran may have been STOPPED if captain Harry Kane wore it

The Football Association – along with a number of other European federations – did not attend a crunch pre-World Cup summit with FIFA at which the wearing of the now-banned One Love armband was discussed.

No representatives from the FA and three other nations were present when a UEFA Working Group on Human and Labour Rights delegation met with FIFA officials at their headquarters in Zurich on October 12, in a move that has raised eyebrows in Qatar.

Meanwhile, it has emerged England feared their opening match with Iran may have been stopped should Harry Kane have worn the anti-discrimination armband.

The FA did not attend a crunch pre-World Cup meeting with FIFA on the One Love armband

The FA did not attend a crunch pre-World Cup meeting with FIFA on the One Love armband

England captain Harry Kane was forced to abandon wearing the anti-discrimination armband in their opening game against Iran due to fears of punishments by world governing body FIFA

England captain Harry Kane was forced to abandon wearing the anti-discrimination armband in their opening game against Iran due to fears of punishments by world governing body FIFA

Three Lions’ officials were concerned that no limit had been placed on potential punishments before deciding to drop the gesture.

It is understood that the UEFA Working Group decided three nations would attend the short-notice meeting, which covered a wide range of issues including the armband, subsequently reported back to the FA with their findings.

FA chief executive Bullingham could not make the meeting as he was due at an all-staff event with 800 at St George’s Park which had not taken place for two years thanks to the Covid pandemic and at which he was a key speaker.

FA insiders deny that the chief executive was personally invited to the event. 

They informed FIFA of their intention to wear the armband on September 12 and, after a number of weeks with no response, suggested a meeting with the other nations in the working group. 

FIFA responded with a date which Bullingham could not make and instead representatives from three of the other countries in the group headed to Switzerland and reported back.

No definitive conclusion was reached at the summit, although sources say FIFA made clear that wearing the rainbow-coloured armband would be against the rules.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham (pictured) could not make the meeting at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on October 12 as he was due at an all-staff event at St George's Park

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham (pictured) could not make the meeting at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on October 12 as he was due at an all-staff event at St George’s Park

German players covered their mouths in protest at being 'gagged' from freedom of expression

German players covered their mouths in protest at being ‘gagged’ from freedom of expression

Alternatively, those countries involved claim they only learned of FIFA’s intention to use sporting sanctions against those who wore the armband days before the tournament kicked off.

Initially, it was reported that Kane may have been booked for the gesture but there were indications on Thursday that the punishment could have been even greater.

FA officials believe they has tried to do the right thing throughout the process and feel they are being unfairly targeted. They also say that it was never intended for all members of the group to attend.

Regardless, Bullingham’s absence has been noted with interest in some quarters here. Some are surprised that the executive, who has been in post since 2019, was not present given the FA’s continued claims in the build-up to the World Cup that they had not heard back from FIFA.

Meanwhile, England are discussing using a day at their training camp next week to promote the One Love campaign. No final decision has been made but it is likely they will do so. Banners and t-shirts are among the options being considered.

England boss Gareth Southgate gave a measured response when asked about it on Thursday

England boss Gareth Southgate gave a measured response when asked about it on Thursday

He noted Danish coach Kasper Hjulmand's admission he did not have enough 'bandwidth' to deal with the football - saying he didn't want those parties involved to try to 'out-do each other'

He noted Danish coach Kasper Hjulmand’s admission he did not have enough ‘bandwidth’ to deal with the football – saying he didn’t want those parties involved to try to ‘out-do each other’

When asked about the ongoing issue on Thursday, Gareth Southgate gave a measured response, stating he did not want those involved to try to ‘out-do each other’.

‘I noticed the Danish coach speaking after the game and he felt he hadn’t got enough bandwidth to deal with the football,’ he said. ‘I think that’s the risk that we’re all running.

‘I’m quite comfortable with our position and I think we should be confident in what we stand for. What we think we can affect. We run the risk now… there was a plan [before Iran], we weren’t able to carry out that plan. What do we do now? 

‘Do we all try to out-do each other on a gesture that might actually be… however we do it, probably won’t be enough. We want to support the LGBTQ community in particular and recognise that a lot of those people aren’t here with us, and we wanted them here with us. 

‘But we could also rush into doing things that don’t land well and don’t really make any difference.’ 


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