FIFA is moving closer to allowing teams to wear rainbow-colored armbands that promote inclusion at this year’s Women’s World Cup, which could reverse a policy that specifically banned similar armbands at the men’s World Cup in Qatar. last year.
In November, FIFA threatened teams and their captains with severe punishments in an effort to silence a long-planned anti-discrimination statement just hours before the start of the World Cup, leading to a rupture in relations between soccer’s governing body and several competing nations.
But this week, after months of discussions between soccer leaders and national associations that intend to allow their players to highlight the causes that are important to them on the biggest stage of women’s soccer, FIFA plans to send a letter which describes the bracelet rules for the 32 teams. who will participate in the tournament.
The letter could be sent to the teams as early as Wednesday, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions who declined to speak publicly because FIFA’s final decision on the matter has not yet been communicated to its members.
The deal that appears to have been reached will allow team captains who want to participate in efforts to promote inclusion — a FIFA-approved message slated to be the theme of the first round of games — to wear rainbow-colored armbands. during matches at the month-long event in Australia and New Zealand.
The design, like the One Love version banned in Qatar, would be similar in its colors to the well-known flag that serves as a symbol of LGBTQ pride, but deliberately not identical to it.
FIFA, according to people familiar with the talks, will allow individual nations to decide whether or not to wear the rainbow armband, and will offer captains and teams to opt out by highlighting other social justice words and phrases on a solid blue armband. , or a neutral FIFA armband with the message “Football unites the world”.
In subsequent rounds of the tournament, FIFA and the national teams will promote themes beyond inclusion. Co-host Australia, for example, is pushing for a bracelet that highlights the rights of indigenous citizens. (In a related decision, FIFA plans to hang indigenous flags in World Cup stadiums in Australia and New Zealand in a show of support for an issue of particular interest to both host nations.)
Reaching a consensus on the bracelets has not been easy. At one stage in months of sometimes contentious talks between FIFA and the teams, there was a growing sense that the rainbow-coloured armbands sought by supporters of the inclusion campaign would not be allowed. As recently as March, a senior German official said FIFA had told his team directly that the rainbow armbands their players have worn for years would not be allowed in the Women’s World Cup.
Federation officials are hopeful that will not be the case when FIFA informs the teams of their final plans this week.
Players from various Women’s World Cup teams have spoken about their intention to highlight support for the LGBTQ community at the month-long tournament, which will feature dozens of gay players. A handful of teams already wear rainbow armbands in many of their games, and other players and teams have used armbands and wristbands in the past to highlight issues like sexual abuse, gender equality and gun control.
FIFA may be just as eager to take the issue off the table after the pushback, public outcry and online scorn it received over its ban on rainbow armbands in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is outlawed.
“We all go through a learning process,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said of the armband battle during a visit to London in March. “What we will try to do better this time is to seek a dialogue with all those involved, the captains, the federations, the players, FIFA, to capture the different sensibilities and see what can be done to express a position, a value or a feeling that someone has in a positive way, without hurting anyone else.
“We are seeking dialogue and we will have a solution long before the Women’s World Cup,” she predicted at the time. The tournament opens on July 20.