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Home ยป ‘I Won’t Shy Away From Who I Am’: Minister To Wear OneLove Armband To England V Wales

‘I Won’t Shy Away From Who I Am’: Minister To Wear OneLove Armband To England V Wales

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Stuart Andrew, the sports minister, has said he will wear the OneLove armband at the England v Wales World Cup match in Qatar tomorrow.

Mr Andrew, himself a member of the LGBTQ+ community, said he is “not going to shy away from who I am”.

The UK’s first openly gay sports minister said he was determined to make the gesture even though the world’s football governing body FIFA has warned players they could be booked for making political protests.

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Asked whether he would wear the armband and risk upsetting the World Cup host, Mr Andrew told the newspaper: “I absolutely will be doing so.

“I’m not going to shy away from who I am.

“Our message very much is that no one should have to hide who they are.”

Mr Andrew, who is also an equalities minister, said that as a gay man he is in a “unique position” to send a message of solidarity to those LGBTQ+ fans who did not feel comfortable travelling to Qatar for the event.

He also criticised FIFA for putting players in an “impossible position” by barring them from showing their support by wearing the armband.

Some football teams – including England and Wales – were preparing to wear the armband during matches in a show of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

But FIFA warned players they could face sporting sanctions if they went ahead.

Football associations subsequently backed down.

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OneLove armband ditched The football body defended its decision to threaten to issue yellow cards to players wearing the armband by saying that its rules do not allow “political, religious or personal messages or slogans”.

FIFA offered team captains the chance to wear an armband that said “no discrimination” instead.

Discussing the players who wanted to wear the armbands but could not, the sports minister said: “It means a lot to me personally, means a lot to me as a minister and more broadly, means a lot to fans out there.

“It is pretty appalling that at the eleventh hour they were put in a position where they were told there would be sanctions against them. That’s put them in an impossible position.”

He added: “This is an incredibly important tournament for international football… of course they want to progress as far as they can. For them to be silenced is deeply unfair.”

Image: Stuart Andrew has been sports minister since September Speaking about FIFA, Mr Andrew continued: “Two weeks ago they wrote to everybody to say just concentrate on the football and don’t do the politics.

“Then they say you can’t wear the armband, but you can wear ours.

“Well I’m sorry, that is just not an acceptable position. It’s not sustainable. And I think there are serious questions for FIFA to answer.”

The Conservative MP for Pudsey in Leeds also disclosed that he considered boycotting the World Cup because of Qatar’s rules on same-sex relationships.

“This has been a decision I’ve thought long and hard about because it is a very deeply personal decision,” he said.

“I have done a lot of work before this tournament started. I met with the Qatari ambassador and had a very frank conversation about what does ‘everyone is welcome’ actually mean.

“I have a responsibility to go there and see for myself that is actually what has been delivered on the ground. And if it isn’t in any way then to challenge that.”

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‘England will want to stay unbeaten’ He added: “There is a spotlight on Qatar now and that is a spotlight that we should not let go out as soon as the tournament is over.

“I really hope that FIFA will have a long hard look at the criteria that are needed for host nations to host such tournaments because clearly, I would have thought their ambition would be for everybody to want to enjoy the games and make them the most successful ever.”