Rio Ferdinand accused England and the Football Association of “falling like a pack of cards” after they decided to not wear the OneLove armband at the Qatar World Cup when Fifa threatened captain Harry Kane with a yellow card.
England, along with Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland, had announced plans to wear the rainbow armband to support the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar and in opposition of the host country’s discriminatory laws on same-sex relationships.
But, on the morning of England’s opening match against Iran, the countries released a joint statement confirming they would not be wearing the armband after Fifa said it would break their sporting equipment regulations.
With England captain Kane threatened with potentially being booked before the match began if he wore the armband, it led to Gareth Southgate’s team climbing down from their stance. Kane will instead wear Fifa’s own ‘No Discriminiation’ armband.
Speaking on the BBC, former England defender Ferdinand said the players had been put in a lose-lose situation, but criticised the FA for not standing up to Fifa’s threats of booking Kane for committing to the gesture.
Ferdinand was asked by Gary Lineker if England’s players “can’t win” over deciding their form of protest and replied: “As a footballer you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
“If you speak out, people say you’re not a politician, be quiet and get back in your box. It is very difficult and that’s why the federations need to be stronger. The organisations have to come at it together with a unified response and say, ‘This is where we stand’”.
Former England striker Alan Shearer said Kane wearing the OneLove armband and receiving a yellow card would have made a “huge statement” and put pressure on FIfa.
Ferdinand then added: “They’ve had one bump in the road and they’ve fallen like a pack of cards.”
Shearer also pointed out that England’s players have used their voice on speaking out on racial injustice by taking the knee, which Southate’s side will also do when they kick off against Iran.
Shearer said: “I don’t think it’s fair for players having to deal with this on the morning of the game. They have done incredible work off the pitch, a lot of the England players and the England manager, including during the pandemic.
“The FA knew it was against the rules and they weren’t allowed to wear it, so for them to face questions now… it’s not fair on the players. All the players should be thinking about now is winning the game.”