The Allianz Arena in Munich illuminated in rainbow colours in 2016 (Pic: anahtiris / Shutterstock.com)
In a lost opportunity to affirm equality and inclusion, UEFA has rejected a request to light up Munich’s Allianz Arena soccer stadium in rainbow colours to protest against Hungary’s anti-LGBTIQ+ laws.
Munich mayor Dieter Reiter make the request ahead of Wednesday’s Euro 2020 match between Germany and Hungary.
Last week, lawmakers in Hungary adopted a raft of discriminatory and oppressive amendments restricting positive LGBTIQ+ content or representation to minors; similar to Russia’s notorious LGBTIQ+ “propaganda” law.
Reiter asked UEFA in a letter to allow the city “to illuminate the arena in rainbow colours during the game and thus send a widely visible signal for our common understanding of values”.
The arena has been illuminated in the rainbow colours before, to mark the city’s “Christopher Street Day” Pride celebration for example, but permission must be sought from UEFA to do so during a Euro 2020 match.
On Tuesday, UEFA – which administers football in Europe – said in a statement that it understands and supports the intention behind the request “to send a message to promote diversity and inclusion.”
It agreed that: “Racism, homophobia, sexism, and all forms of discrimination are a stain on our societies – and represent one of the biggest problems faced by the game today. Discriminatory behaviour has marred both matches themselves and, outside the stadiums, the online discourse around the sport we love.”
However, UEFA said that it could not agree to the request because it must remain a politically and religiously neutral organisation.
“Given the political context of this specific request – a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament – UEFA must decline this request,” said the federation.
There have been growing calls for the EU to take action against Hungary for violating European laws, norms and values through its growing repression of LGBTIQ+ people. The refusal to light up Munich’s arena is a lost opportunity to make a powerful and visible statement in support of those values.