FIFA may allow rainbow armbands at Women’s World Cup
FIFA has signaled that it is eager to avoid another fight over rainbow armbands at the Women’s World Cup.
By TARIQ PANJA
FIFA is inching closer to allowing teams to wear rainbow-colored armbands that promote inclusivity at this year’s Women’s World Cup, potentially reversing a policy that specifically outlawed similar armbands at the men’s World Cup in Qatar last year.
In November, FIFA threatened teams and their captains with serious punishments in its effort to silence a long-planned anti-discrimination statement only hours before the start of the World Cup, leading to a breakdown in relations between soccer’s governing body and several competing nations.
But this week, after months of discussions between soccer’s leaders and national federations that are intent on allowing their players to highlight causes that are important to them on women’s soccer’s biggest stage, FIFA is planning to send a letter outlining its armband rules for the 32 teams that 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 had yet to be communicated to its members.
The agreement that appears to have been reached will allow captains of teams that want to participate in efforts to promote inclusivity — a FIFA-approved message scheduled to be the theme for the first round of games — to wear armbands featuring rainbow colors during matches at the monthlong event in Australia and New Zealand.
The design, like the so-called 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 purposely 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 it will offer captains and teams who opt out choices highlighting other social justice words and phrases on a solid blue armband, or a neutral FIFA armband bearing the message “Football Unites the World.”
In the tournament’s later rounds, FIFA and the national teams will promote themes beyond inclusivity. The co-host Australia, for example, is pushing for an armband that highlights the rights of Indigenous citizens. (In a related decision, FIFA plans to hang Indigenous flags at World Cup stadiums in Australia and New Zealand in a show of support for an issue of particular interest to both host nations.)