England World Cup team faced 'unlimited' sanctions over rainbow armband

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MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 23: Harry Kane of England reacts during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between Italy and England at San Siro on September 23, 2022 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 23: Harry Kane of England reacts during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between Italy and England at San Siro on September 23, 2022 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The head of English football said on Friday FIFA threatened "unlimited" sanctions against players who wore the "OneLove" rainbow-themed armband for World Cup matches in Qatar.

England, Wales and five other European nations planned to wear the armband to promote diversity, but abandoned the initiative after football's world governing body threatened them with sporting sanctions.

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The armbands were widely viewed as a response to the laws in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said the FA believed FIFA were effectively threatening to ban players.

"It was unlimited. They would take disciplinary action against any player that was wearing the armband on top of having a yellow card," he told ITV Sport.

England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland said they had written to FIFA in September informing them about the "OneLove" armband, but did not receive a response.

"We had a lot of meetings with FIFA over that period and on Saturday before the game we felt we'd reached an understanding where we would wear it," added Bullingham. "We hadn't got permission but we would face a fine for it.

"Unfortunately then, on the day of the game, they gave us 10 minutes' notice - two hours before we were due to go to the game.

"They came here with five officials and they ran us through a scenario where, at a minimum, anyone wearing the armband would be booked and face disciplinary action on top of that."

Germany's players covered their mouths for the team photo before their match against Japan on Tuesday in protest at FIFA's stance and the German football federation (DFB) has said it will investigate whether the threat to sanction players for wearing the armband is legal.

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