Football Association lawyers are examining whether England can challenge Fifa’s threat of “sporting sanctions” for wearing the OneLove armband.
There is deep unhappiness within the FA at the heavy-handed way Fifa threatened to – at least – book Harry Kane if he wore the inclusive captain’s armband during Monday’s opening World Cup group game against Iran.
It led to England, along with six other European nations including Wales, reluctantly backing down and wearing the official Fifa armband, much to Kane’s annoyance. The organisation faced a backlash over the decision but reasoned that putting Kane in danger of being suspended was unfair on the striker.
The FA are very mindful to ensure that the players are allowed to concentrate on the football with manager Gareth Southgate admitting after the Iran game that he was reluctant to get involved in off-field matters while in the middle of a tournament.
The German Football Federation has already confirmed that they are exploring legal options and although there have been suggestions that this might include going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport this has not been conveyed to the English FA.
On Wednesday night a host of the FA's sponsors said they remained "steadfast" in their support for England, despite German retailer Rewe Group suspended its partnership with the country’s football federation over the furoe. The supermarket chain said world football’s governing body had been “scandalous”, but EE, Lucozade and Coca Cola told Telegraph Sport their arrangements with the FA were unchanged.
The FA has instructed its legal team to look at how Fifa was planning to implement its regulations and whether the rules are being properly applied in this instance.
The FA wrote to Fifa more than two months ago to inform football’s world governing body that the England captain was going to wear the anti-discrimination rainbow armband but received no reply.
It is now querying whether Fifa has failed to apply the rules of the tournament – which the FA believed meant it faced a fine – and is trying to apply the Ifab rules instead. Ifab, football’s rule making body, state that a player can be cautioned for wearing inappropriate equipment which would include an unapproved captain’s armband.
The FA believe Fifa have applied the regulations in an unusual way and the tournament rules should have been primary. In the meeting on Monday's game Fifa were specific as to what “sporting sanctions” would mean with the threat that Kane would be booked.
Welsh FA chief executive calls Fifa's armband threats “cheap” and “low”
By Sam Dean in Doha
Noel Mooney, the chief executive of the Welsh FA, has said it was “cheap” and “low” for Fifa to suddenly threaten sporting sanctions against any players who wore the ‘OneLove’ armband and accused the world governing body of failing to deliver an “inclusive, warm and welcoming World Cup”.
Mooney said the Football Association of Wales (FAW) are “absolutely furious” with Fifa for their treatment of teams over the escalating armband issue, and also declared it “appalling” that Wales supporters have had rainbow-themed hats, shoelaces and wristbands taken off them by security.
Wales have added rainbow corner flags to their training base in Qatar in a defiant message to Fifa, having also demanded answers from the governing body over the issue of wearing rainbow-themed clothing or accessories within stadiums.
FAW officials met with Fifa on Tuesday and those conversations continued on Wednesday. Mooney told ITV that the FAW had “given everything we have got” in those arguments with Fifa executives.
Mooney added that it is unfair for any criticism to be aimed at players such as Gareth Bale, the Wales captain, for not carrying on with their plans to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband after Fifa promised to impose sporting sanctions.
“For months and months we have known we were going to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband and they [Fifa] certainly did,” Mooney told ITV. “To lay that one on us is pretty cheap and pretty low, to be frank. We are really disappointed by that attitude. We have been absolutely furious about this.
“I understand why everybody would be upset about the ‘OneLove’ armband not being there but there was no way we could ask Gareth Bale to take a yellow or red card at his first World Cup. How could you do that?
“Anybody who thinks the player can just take a red card like that, they don’t really understand the psyche of a professional athlete who is going out to play the biggest moment of their lives.
“We had said we would accept fines, whatever sanctions came, but when it turned at the very last moment to specific sporting sanctions that would have stopped our players taking the field of play potentially, that is a different thing. It was done so late.”
Wales supporters, including former national team captain Laura McAllister, were ordered to remove their rainbow bucket hats — created in partnership with the FAW — upon their arrival at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium for the game against the United States on Monday night.
“I was in the stadium and I started to get messages and texts saying people were having their bucket hats taken off them,” said Mooney, who does not intend to break away from Fifa. “I heard shoelaces were taken off people, I heard wristbands were taken off people. You couldn't make it up.
“We were told this was going to be a really inclusive, welcoming, warm World Cup. That is not what I have seen, I have to say. To have our fans have their bucket hats taken off them is just appalling. We have asked Fifa to come back to us today with some clarification for the Iran game that our fans can wear whatever they wish.”
Denmark raise prospect of leaving Fifa
By Ben Rumsby
The head of the Danish Football Association has said he wants talks with other European nations over withdrawing from Fifa amid the growing row over the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband.
In a major escalation of the toxic stand-off, DBU president Jesper Moller also confirmed he would not vote for Gianni Infantino to be re-elected head of the game’s world governing body.
Speaking about the row at a press conference in Qatar, Moller raised the prospect of his association and others taking the nuclear option of leaving Fifa.
He said: “It is not a decision that has been made now. We have been clear about this for a long time. We have been discussing it in the Nordic region since August.
“I’ve thought it again. I imagine that there may be challenges if Denmark leaves on its own. But let us see if we cannot have a dialogue on things.
“I have to think about the question of how to restore confidence in Fifa. We must evaluate what has happened, and then we must create a strategy – also with our Nordic colleagues.”
He added: “There are presidential elections in Fifa. There are 211 countries in Fifa and I understand that the current president has statements of support from 207 countries. Denmark is not among those countries. And we’re not going to be either.”