european football’s governing body UEFA has declined a request to allow Munich’s Allianz Arena to be illuminated in rainbow colors in support of LGBTQ+ rights, saying it would represent a political statement.
LGBTQ+ activists and the Munich City Council had requested the action for Germany’s Euro 2020 match against Hungary on Tuesday, after controversial legislation was passed through the Hungarian parliament banning LGBTQ+ content for minors.
In a statement on Tuesday, UEFA said the action would have signaled a political message and suggested alternative dates.
“UEFA, through its statutes, is a politically and religiously neutral organisation. given the political context of this specific request – a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament – UEFA must decline this request,” the statement read.
“UEFA has nevertheless proposed to the city of Munich to illuminate the stadium with the rainbow colours on either 28 June – the Christopher Street Liberation Day – or between 3 and 9 July which is the Christopher Street Day week in Munich.”
Pressure on UEFA
For Hungary’s largest LGBTQ+ organization, the Hatter Society, the support would have been a major boost.
“As [Viktor] Orban and [his ruling party] Fidesz have pumped endless money into football, attempting to revive it again as a source of national pride, having to walk into a stadium illuminated in rainbow colours would be quite ironic,” a spokesperson said, referring to over €2 billion ($2.4 billion) invested in football infrastructure in Hungary by the government since 2010.
“We have experienced immense support from international bodies, but this would be an obvious sign of solidarity.”
Family is Family launched a campaign – #nemvagyegyedül (#youarenotalone) – to support LGBTQ+ people after the new legislation in Hungary was passed.
“A similar message coming from UEFA or from the players could mean the world for many people,” a spokesperson told DW.
“It sends the message that it is okay to be a member of the LGBTQI community.”
Sport and politics
Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto had defended the new law on Monday and said that sporting events had nothing to do with national legislation.
“We have passed this law to protect Hungarian children and Western Europe is now fighting against it,” he said. “I find it harmful and dangerous to confuse politics with sport. Historical experience shows that. If anyone, the Germans know this for sure.”
Germany international leon Goretzka, meanwhile, had spoken out in support of lighting the stadium, saying it was a “great idea.”
His team captain Manuel Neuer has been sporting a rainbow-colored captain’s armband during the July Pride festivities, which was subject to a UEFA investigation .The investigation concluded that the armband is a “symbol of diversity and thus a good cause” and therefore does not fall foul of UEFA’s rules around “political symbols” which are forbidden and usually results in a fine for the national association.
Homophobia in football
Member of the board of directors Kai Bölle highlighted that professional football still has a problem with homophobia through “shaming, chants, insults and exclusions,” and that athletes and organizations had a platform to make a difference.
“To this day, there are only openly gay professional athletes once their careers are ended,” he pointed out.
“Nobody takes this risk… it suggests that it’s not a safe place. Although there’s support you don’t know if that’s really the case. That’s why it’s all the more important that players, national team players and associations take a stand.”
The Hatter Society echoed those views.
“Unfortunately most professional sports have a lot of racism, sexism and homophobia they need to tackle,” the spokesperson said.
“Campaigns like rainbow laces or taking the knee go a long way, because they spread awareness about social issues and can reach audiences activists rarely can.”
In Februay this year, more than 800 male and female German footballers pledged to support any gay footballers as part of the “Ihr könnt auf uns zählen” (“You can count on us”) campaign led by football magazine 11Freunde.
More action necessary
For CSD Deutschland, there is a long way to go when it comes to professional sports supporting LGBTQ+ rights. A symbol of solidarity at the Germany-Hungary match on Wednesday would have been a promising start.
Bölle predicted that UEFA would probably reject the proposal.
“The DFB says its having a hard time in this situation, because it is a european Championship and because UEFA sets the framework,” Bölle said before UEFA’s decision.
“There probably won’t be a big action [at the game]. But we hope that conditions will slowly change in professional sport.”