The England football team was threatened with “unlimited” sanctions if players wore the OneLove armbands just two hours before they stepped on to the pitch for their first World Cup match, the FA chief has revealed.
Mark Bullingham, the CEO of the FA, said Fifa officials arrived at the England squad’s hotel to explain that anyone wearing the anti-discrimintation armband would be given a yellow card or face being banned from playing in matches.
It is unclear as to whether the threat of extensive disciplinary action could have seen England face point deductions.
In an interview with ITV Sport on Friday, Mr Bullingham insisted the FA had made clear since September England’s intentions to wear the OneLove armbands, and had engaged in talks over the matter with FIFA ever since.
He said England had been prepared to face a fine over Fifa’s ban on political slogans on the kit, and described its decision to threaten further punishment “completely unprecedented” and attacked the football governing body’s “very last minute” decision.
“There have been kit breaches in the past - we’ve done that with poppies and we had an understanding we would wear the poppies and pay the fine, and we felt that this was a very similar situation to that and should be dealt with in the same way.
“All our rules experts felt the same as well. The way they acted was completely unprecedented.”
It comes after the captains of seven European teams had promised to wear armbands for the OneLove campaign. Homosexuality is outlawed in Qatar.
“Clearly we felt put in a completely invidious position - it was a horrible position - we wanted to wear this armband we were then suddenly faced with a scenario where our players might not be able to play a part in the tournament and we felt we couldn’t put them in that position,” Mr Bullingham told the broadcaster.
“We had a really short window of time to make the decision and that’s where we felt we had to go.”
Mr Bullingham later declared that there should be a “basic level of human rights” as part of any bidding criteria to host the tournament.
He added: “That’s absolutely part of the discussion that has to be had, and that has to be had at the point that countries bid for the World Cup not a discussion that happens in the build up to it.”