By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
Throughout the UEFA Euro Cup, there has been some tension regarding the LGBTQIA+ rainbow displays and activism, particularly in response to Hungary’s recent passage of anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and matches being played in Hungary which have included anti-LGBTQIA+ displays during the matches themselves.
During one of the matches, Hungary went up against Germany in Munich in which Munich wanted to light up their stadium in rainbow colors to show solidarity with LGBTQIA+ who are affected by Hungary’s discriminatory laws. The UEFA denied this request which led to sharp criticism and feeble attempts by UEFA to paint itself as inclusive while avoiding the ire of Hungary’s conservative government. However, the resulting publicity from this drama has led to an increase in rainbow flags and displays, which the UEFA ruled that it did not constitute a violation of their policies regarding political protests in the event.
Jon Holmes at Sports Media LGBT+ calls it the “Eng-Clusion Effect” noting the increased usage of rainbow displays at the UK’s tournaments in the Euro Cup. He describes efforts made by teams, players and fans to be outspoken in support of diversity, inclusion and equality for all everybody under the rainbow. Players offering personal messages of support, viral memes, taking a knee, wearing their #RainbowLaces and rainbow armbands, artwork and more.
Even more so, the famous Tiny Football Car whose job is to deliver the game ball to start the match will be sporting its full rainbow colors for this Sunday’s final.
— Tiny Football Car (@TinyFootballCar) July 9, 2021
All these efforts and shows of support have been in response to UEFA’S own inaction toward the compounding issue that was first brought on by the investigation into Manuel Neuer’s rainbow armband and following Hungary’s hateful anti-LGBTIA+ laws + the anti-LGBTQIA+ banners displayed at Euro Cup matches held in Hungary. Despite attempts to backtrack and say they’re inclusive, including changing their logo to a rainbow version, the criticisms in their inaction have continued to pour in.
However, it appears UEFA is finally acting. It has ordered Hungary to play their next three UEFA competition matches behind closed doors, meaning no fans. As well as having one match suspended for two years, the Hungarian Football Federation receiving a 100,000 euro fine and required to display a banner featuring UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign logo on it. in response to the racist and homophobic abuse and culture in Hungarian and propagated by the Hungarian government. The request for such sanctions came from Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter following the Hungary/Germany match and after the denial of illuminating the stadium in rainbow colors. It was also reported that Hungarian supporters used homophobic chants during that match as well.
The sanctions have drawn criticism from Hungary’s government, but it is nice to see UEFA finally taking a stand on this matter and making good on its #EqualGame mantra. The UEFA Final kicks off Sunday evening (2000 London Time) on Sunday, July 11th between Italy and England/Denmark at Wembley Stadium.