The Dutch football federation KNVB will stop calling on clubs to participate in the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign, leaving the decision to wear the rainbow armband to the clubs or team captains instead.
The federation’s racism programme manager, Houssin Bezzai, announced the KNVB was stepping back from active involvement at club level at a symposium on Coming Out Day on Wednesday.
The KNVB will continue with the campaign but the clubs will have to decide to participate themselves. “I am curious about what they will do,” broadcaster NOS quoted Bezzai as saying. Bezzai did not say why the football association had taken the decision to downgrade the campaign.
The timing of the announcement was “embarrassing”, Thijs Smeenk, spokesman for the sports gay acceptance foundation John Blankenstein, told NOS sports programme Langs de Lijn en Omstreken.
Smeenk said the clubs will not become sufficiently aware of the problem if they are not actively spurred on to take part in the campaign, and that despite the federation’s good intentions, awareness of gender issues in football will wane.
Launched in 2020, the OneLove campaign aims to promote the idea that ‘everyone in football should be able to be themselves’ and to ‘support everyone who feels discriminated against across the world’, including the LGBTQ+ community.
Last season, the then-team captains of Feyenoord and Excelsior, Orkun Kökcü and Redouan El Yaakoubi, refused to wear the rainbow armband, resulting in El Yaakoubi’s removal as captain. Kökcü said he did not wear the armband for religious reasons.
The arm band also proved controversial at the World Cup, when Fifa said players would be given a yellow card for wearing it. The captains of seven European teams, including Oranje, had intended to wear the rainbow armband in support of LGBTQ rights at the tournament in Qatar, where male homosexuality is illegal.
Smeenk said other European countries have taken the lead in gay acceptance. “I went to see Arsenal-PSV three weeks ago and there was a rainbow flag put up by a gay supporters group. I have seen at other clubs in England and Germany. But if you do it in a Dutch stadium, you have a problem.”
Dutch News has asked the KNVB to clarify why the decision to change the campaign has been taken.