Updated: May 17, 2019
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rainbow does not belong on the kit or the field in soccer.
In international soccer matches, the United States of America and the Republic of Ireland have required players to wear an LGBT rainbow on their jerseys.
England required players to wear LGBT rainbow laces on their cleats. Some teams have required captains to wear an LGBT rainbow captain’s armband. Some have placed the LGBT rainbow on corner flags.
The LGBT rainbow is a political symbol. The Laws of the Game from the International Football Association Board (IFAB) state, “Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” (Law 04.5).1
FIFA’s Equipment Regulations add that this includes a ban on any “political or comparable symbol”(Article8.3).2 FIFA needs to enforce its own rules.
Not everyone agrees with the causes represented by the LGBT rainbow. Players who have declined to wear the LGBT rainbow in international and league play have been harassed and now risk being disadvantaged in their careers.
FIFA and IFAB have a responsibility to assure players are judged by their soccer skills, not by their political or religious views. No one should be required to wear a political symbol with which they disagree.
Those who disagree with the politics represented by the LGBT rainbow include some religious believers as well as those who oppose the threat that transgenderism poses to soccer for girls and women. These individuals and others should not be excluded from soccer just because they hold opinions that are at odds with LGBT advocates and vice versa.
FIFA and IFAB need to guarantee all are welcome.
Teams should not compel players or team staff to express or affirm political views.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino emphasized, “Football is for all. That statement does not come from me, or FIFA: it is a defining trait of the game and that is what makes it such a powerful cultural phenomenon. FIFA’s role is to foster and safeguard this precious attribute."
Soccer, the world’s most popular sport, can only remain a wonderful shared space for everyone if the focus remains on soccer while differences of opinion on other matters are kept outside.
FIFA should “fight discrimination...while supporting diversity,” as FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura has said. Diversity includes diversity of viewpoints.
FIFA’s official slogan is “For the Game. For the World.” In this spirit: yes to soccer, no to politics. Let the whole world play.
Two Actions FIFA Needs to Take
(1) Discipline teams that place political symbols, to include the LGBT rainbow, on any part of the kit, protective equipment, or captain’s armband.
(2) Support fairness and inclusion. (See “Five Recommendations to Assure All Are
One Action IFAB Needs to Take
(3) Revise the Laws of the Game to exclude political symbols on corner flags, all other field and technical area equipment, and on the field and its immediate surroundings. (See discussion of Law 01.8 and 01.13 on pages 10 and 12.)