The Wembley arch was lit up in rainbow colors on Friday night after a week at the World Cup dominated by a row over a rainbow-coloured sash.
Seven European nations, including England and Wales, had hoped to wear the armband as part of a year-long OneLove anti-discrimination campaign in Qatar, but had to abandon those plans when FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions. which only started with a yellow card for the captains who wear them.
There had been speculation whether England might follow Germany and stage a protest on the pitch, but, ahead of kick-off for England’s second match against the USA, the Football Association showed its support for the campaign by lighting up the arch of the national stadium in north london.
The FA said in a statement: “The FA will continue to show our support for the LGBTQ+ community and all other communities during this tournament and far beyond, starting with the lighting of Wembley Stadium’s arch in the colors of the rainbow for Friday night’s game with the USA.”
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the disciplinary action the team could face from FIFA for wearing the armband was “unlimited”.
Bullingham told ITV Sport: “It’s very important that we understand what happened here. We were clear that we wanted to wear it and committed to it.
“We announced we would do it in September, we had a lot of meetings with FIFA during that time and on Saturday before the match we felt we had reached an agreement on where we would wear it. We didn’t have a permit, but we would have had to pay a fine.
“Unfortunately then on match day they gave us 10 minutes notice – two hours before we were due to go to the match… they came here with five referees and put us through a scenario where at least anyone wearing the armband would be booked and he would have faced disciplinary action on top of that.
“It was unlimited. They would take disciplinary action against any player wearing the armband as well as having a yellow card.
Bullingham said the FA interpreted this to mean players could face bans from further matches if bands were worn, not just a yellow card.
In reaction to Bullingham’s comments, former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville accused FIFA of being a “rogue organisation”.
“That’s what I expect the FA to say, they’re a risk averse organisation, they always have been,” Neville said during ITV’s coverage of England’s match against the United States.
“I’m not surprised FIFA did this, they are a rogue organization that, in this particular tournament, we are probably seeing them at their worst.
“They don’t need to be like this. What will an armband do to hurt FIFA?
“I accept that they ultimately have rules and laws against political protests but the reality is I think they (England) should have done it because they had talked about it so much and cornered themselves.”
Neville’s fellow pundit Ian Wright added: “You’re looking at FIFA as an organization that shows up at the England hotel two hours before a match with their bare hands, threatening them with what they can do.
“I’m sure this will scare them a bit but they decided to do it before the tournament and for me I will stand by what I said.
“There’s no protest without risk: I wanted them to wear it, they didn’t wear it, the FA have now explained the reasons why they couldn’t do it and I’m done.”
Germany protested FIFA’s stance by covering their mouths for a team photo before their match against Japan on Wednesday, to highlight how they felt silenced.
On Friday, Sanjay Bhandari, the president of Kick It Out, responded to suggestions that players faced “unlimited liability” for wearing the armband, writing on Twitter: “What FIFA has done goes beyond failure to live up to one’s values and is a sinister abuse of power designed to silence – hence the German protest gag.
“I guess if you stick around long enough with autocratic dictators, you start to pick up some of their habits.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino was awarded an Order of Friendship medal by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019 and has been accused of bowing to the sensitivities of the Qatari state over the sale of alcohol in stadiums during the World Cup and in the bracelet row.