UEFA have come under fire over the past week for their stance on LGBT rights, and RTÉ pundits Richie Sadlier and Damien Duff launched a scathing and powerful attack on their policies in the buildup to Wednesday night's games at the EUROs.
In the leadup to hosting the final Group F game between Germany and Hungary, the city of Munich submitted a request to UEFA to light up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours to celebrate pride month. The request came after the Hungarian parliament recently passed anti-LGBT laws surrounding education - and was roundly turned down by UEFA.
The European football governing body came out with a statement explaining their decision making, which suggested that they thought the rainbow lighting up the Allianz Arena could be seen as a political statement.
— UEFA (@UEFA) June 23, 2021
Speaking on RTÉ on Wednesday evening, Richie Sadlier and Damien Duff ripped into the UEFA statement. Sadlier went first, and his impassioned rant powerfully summed up why UEFA's stance on LGBTQ rights is simply pathetic.
I think UEFA had a choice here - they had the option to stand in solidarity with a community that has been routinely persecuted, marginalised, discriminated against, attacked in locations all over the world. The most recent attack isfrom the Hungarian parliament. They had a chance to do that and they didn't, and they've tied themselves up in knots - the statement there saying on the one hand the rainbow flag is not political, but the request to use it in the stadium is. Hmm.
They claim to be about certain values, and there's loads of statements - today's one is the latest one - where they claim to be about equality, and respect, and inclusion, and openness for all. You can't credibly claim to be for those things if you run scared at the first opportunity of being up against somebody who attacks those things, which is what they've done today. Whatever statements they put out now come out as hollow, cowardly statements.
Sadlier went on to suggest that UEFA are choosing to "selectively express" their support of the LGBTQ community, and that their choice to deny Munich's request was a cowardly bow to the Hungarian government's stance on LGBTQ rights.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 23, 2021
Former Chelsea and Ireland winger Damien Duff was also on punditry duty, and he was similarly impassioned in his criticism of UEFA. He also noted that the homophobic chants and banners in the stadium in Budapest had not received nearly the same attention from the governing body as the request from Munich had.
If the Hungarian players have anything about it, they go and play the game and they look at a beautiful stadium that's lit up. To say it's political is absolutely nonsense. Like Richie said, I'm just echoing that, there was a chance to show support, their support for the LGBT community that's a global community, that's in Munich, that's in Budapest where recently they played France and there were homophobic chants, homophobic banners in the stadium.
They talk about core values in their statement. Their core values - and not just because of today, because of my experience with them - it's just money and power. They're the two that jump out to me. They make out that they're about diversity and inclusion. They'd a chance today to show that, absolutely not. The 'Respect' logo is absolutely everywhere but nobody respects them because of the way they do their work.
The evening discussion on RTÉ really made for powerful viewing, and Duff brought it one step further by noting UEFA's lack of decisive action against racism in football. He noted the specific example of the incident that saw Rangers player Glen Kamara racially abused in a Europa League game earlier this year.
Since UEFA rejected the request to light up the #AllianzArena over 40 clubs have lit up their stadium, thousands of flags were handed out at the match tonight and the movement keeps growing. I’ve never seen such a big celebration of Pride in sport, it’s amazing #GERHUN #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/jXtJXSEogI
— Tom Knight (@TJ_Knight) June 23, 2021
UEFA have been perfectly happy to parade their "Respect" badges and their message of equality throughout EURO 2020, but when it comes to decisive action they missed a chance to stand up on the right side of the fight.
Time will tell what UEFA's long-term actions were, but it's very hard to disagree with Duff and Sadlier on this one.