LGBT+ groups have written to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin criticising inaction over potential discriminatory incidents during Hungary’s first two Euro 2020 games and the decision to prohibit the Munich Stadium from being illuminated in rainbow colours.
The letter has been organised by the Football v Homophobia campaign and includes Pride in Football (the UK umbrella organisation for LGBT+ supporters groups), the EGLSF (European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation) based in the Netherlands, and the Civil Works Association in Hungary.
UEFA is investigating potential discriminatory incidents during Hungary’s opening two matches of Euro 2020 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest. The inclusivity in football group Fare sent a report highlighting a homophobic banner in the stands for their defeat to Portugal, while monkey chants were also heard during the draw with France.
On Tuesday, UEFA denied a request from the German Football Federation and Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter for the Allianz Arena to be lit up in rainbow colours for their clash with Hungary in Group F on Wednesday because of the political motives behind the proposal.
Reiter had said he wanted to light up the stadium in the colours in protest against a new law in Hungary that bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change. UEFA has proposed new dates for the stadium to be illuminated.
Leading LGBT+ groups in Germany, Turkey, Poland, Portugal, France, Slovenia, Russia, Finland, Spain and Italy have also signed the letter which hits out at UEFA for a lack of “action” concerning the alleged incidents at the Puskas Arena.
The organisations also say it is “simply wrong” of UEFA to deem gestures aimed at challenging LGBT+ discrimination to be political acts.
The letter read: “Dear Mr Ceferin, President of UEFA. We are an independent grouping of LGBTIQ community groups concerned with combatting homophobia in football, using football and other sports as a tool to tackle discrimination, and working with LGBTIQ groups to overcome exclusion of our communities across Europe.
“We write you as the head of UEFA about our general concerns at the rise of homophobia in football in many countries within UEFA jurisdiction in recent years and also about the Euro 2020 tournament.
“We have been alarmed by examples of homophobia during Euro 2020 with banners and chants in evidence in some stadiums. Most notably we have been concerned about the way in which supporters of Hungary have been using their government’s legislative framework to sing songs and raise banners mocking and denying the rights of the LGBTIQ community to exist.
“I am sure you will agree that the human rights of minority groups are to be respected within civil society, and any examples of those rights being challenged within popular public arenas, such as football matches, should be acted upon.
“We have not as yet seen any action from UEFA on the incidents widely reported in Hungary.
“We welcomed the initiative of the German Football Association (DFB) and the Mayor of Munich to light up the Allianz Arena before and during the Germany v Hungary match. We also noted the UEFA statement as to why the gesture would be seen as political in opposition to the stance of the Hungarian government.
“We are firmly of the view that positive gestures of inclusion that are in support of the human rights of a minority group that is widely excluded from football and society should not be seen as a political act.
“It is certainly not an act on equal terms with the prohibitive and exclusionary legislation of the Hungarian government. To make an equivalence between the two positions and to reduce this to a political row is quite simply wrong.
“We have noted the UEFA commitment to your own Equal Game campaign; this is an opportunity to put that campaign into practice. We urge UEFA to do more, and to work with partners, such as the Fare network and those of us among this grouping with an international remit, to ensure that actions of inclusion and solidarity are not prevented, and that action on homophobia and LGBTIQ exclusion matches the words of campaigns and pledges.”
Sky Sports News have contacted UEFA for a response to the letter and have offered the opportunity to speak in an on-camera interview.
European football’s governing body also launched an investigation into Manuel Neuer wearing a rainbow coloured armband for Germany’s opening two fixtures at the tournament. However, it was later dropped on the grounds that the gesture was “assessed as a team symbol for diversity and thus for a ‘good cause'” and it therefore did not breach UEFA’s rules surrounding political protests.
The goalkeeper had been wearing the armband in support of the LGBT+ community during Pride Month which runs throughout June.
A number of footballers, including France’s Antoine Griezmann who tweeted an image on Tuesday of the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours, have also shown solidarity with the campaign.