Champions League

UEFA’s stance on LGBTQ rights falls short (yet again)

Being a lifelong cynic is better than people think. You get used to being let down, so you make a practice of expecting the absolute minimum from organisations – and when that’s exactly what you get, it just pings off you because hey! You’d already mentally processed that!

Occasionally though, things break through. Organisations – let’s use UEFA as an example, because…well, because this is about them – rent some industrial digging equipment and tunnel under the bar that’s already laying on the floor.

If you haven’t read UEFA’s statement on their choice to turn down Munich’s request to light up their stadium in rainbow colours for Wednesday night’s Euro 2020 game against Hungary, the most germane parts are below.

“Some people have interpreted UEFA’s decision to turn down the city of Munich’s request to illuminate the Munich stadium in rainbow colours for a EURO 2020 match as ‘political’. On the contrary, the request itself was political, linked to the Hungarian football team’s presence in the stadium for this evening’s match with Germany.

For UEFA, the rainbow is not a political symbol, but a sign of our firm commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society.”

– UEFA

There hasn’t been anyone so publicly tied up knots since Lionel Messi put Jerome Boateng in the spin cycle at Camp Nou. To take UEFA’s statement at face value, the rainbow is not a political symbol…unless it’s being shown in the presence of a national team whose country opposes LGBTQ rights.

You’re allowed to say ‘we support gay rights’…unless you’re saying it to someone who doesn’t. There have been Hungary fans with anti-LQBTQ displays in stadiums in this tournament, and this week the country passed a law banning the ‘display or promotion of homosexuality’ around anyone under the age of 18. Want to be gay on TV? Not until after the watershed, buddy!

Support that vanishes in the presence of opposition isn’t any kind of support at all, but you know what the daftest part of the whole thing is? Lighting up a stadium in rainbow colours for a night basically doesn’t matter.

On a personal level, as a bi man, absolutely nothing changes if a stadium gets lit up in a rainbow. It makes no tangible difference to my life, or the lives of just about any other LGBTQ person in the world. It is, in isolation, an empty gesture. Riling up homophobes for the sake of riling up homophobes is always a positive, but if UEFA had said yes to the stadium light-up, would they have – say – stopped giving lucrative matches and finals to countries with homophobic governments and regimes? Would they have used any of their considerable financial and political muscle to support the LGBTQ communities in places where their safety and freedom of expression are at risk?

Not a chance. So honestly, sincerely, well done UEFA. You’ve managed to screw up a situation that I didn’t have particularly strong feelings on so badly. It’s impressive. Nice one.

Then again, UEFA didn’t even have the guts to mention anything about what the rainbow is a symbol of in their statement, except some vague waffle about ‘equality and diversity’. Maybe they’re just anti-NHS and we just haven’t noticed.

Crying apoliticism is one of the oldest tricks in the book for cowardly organisations who are too afraid to say “actually, we’d rather throw you under the bus than slightly annoy one of our members, because…money?”

Look at every part of football in 2021. Look at the entire states buying football clubs to be used as their propaganda arms. Look at FC Barcelona being a leading force in the Catalan independence movement. Look at the fight in English football to honour the country’s long and often brutal military history with the wearing of the poppy. Look at these, and countless other examples, and try to justify the idea that football isn’t political.

Gay rights, then. That’s not political, at least, right? No, it’s just an issue that’s used to whip up hatred by far-right parties, while our rights get voted on by politicians to appease their support bases and aw beans gay rights are political too, huh? Everything’s political? Existence is inherently political, and if you don’t keep battling for your right to exist, someone’s going to be standing right there to whip it out from under you?

I’d like to have some kind of rousing kicker to this article, but you know what? I’m tired. I’m tired of having to keep talking about this sort of thing, tired of having to constantly think about it, tired of lip service being paid by people who are openly enabling homophobic modern fascists and evil regimes.

At least we’ve got the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to look forward to.

For more from Chris Deeley, follow him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209

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