UEFA defends decision to reject request for rainbow-illuminated Allianz Arena

UEFA has defended its decision to decline a request to illuminate the Munich Euro 2020 stadium in rainbow colours for Wednesday night’s match between Germany and Hungary.

It says the request from Munich mayor Dieter Reiter was rejected because it was political, and made in response to legislation in Hungary banning the display and promotion of homosexuality to under-18s.

Reiter described UEFA’s decision to block the request as “shameful” on Tuesday and said other city landmarks would display rainbow colours instead.

UEFA’s Twitter avatar was altered to rainbow colours on Wednesday, and it released a statement which read: “Today, UEFA is proud to wear the colours of the rainbow.

“It is a symbol that embodies our core values, promoting everything that we believe in – a more just and egalitarian society, tolerant of everyone, regardless of their background, belief or gender.

“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.”

Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer said on Tuesday he would have liked his club’s stadium to be illuminated in this way for the match, adding: “Open-mindedness and tolerance are fundamental values that our society and FC Bayern stand for.”

Other Bundesliga clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig expressed their support for the LGBTQI+ movement in social media posts on Wednesday, while so too did Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, who are involved in a legal battle with UEFA over their involvement in the Super League earlier this year.

Munich’s town hall has rainbow flags flying outside it, and the city mayor said on Tuesday that local officials planned to illuminate the wind turbine adjacent to the stadium and the Olympic tower in rainbow colours.

“I find it shameful that UEFA forbids us to send a message here in Munich for openness, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the LGBTQI + community,” Reiter said in a statement.

“I am also very disappointed that the DFB (the German football association), despite the unbelievably clear positioning here in Munich, in Bavaria and also in Germany, has not achieved or wanted to achieve anything.”

The Hungarian bill has been criticised by the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, who said it “goes against the fundamental principles of the European Union” and warned the commission would use all its powers to protect the rights of EU citizens.

Groups from across Europe supporting the LGBTQI+ community, including Pride In Football and Football v Homophobia, have written to UEFA protesting against its decision.

Pride In Football board member Rishi Madlani told talkSPORT: “We want them to meet with us, we want them to learn. Unfortunately the governance of football is not fit for purpose and needs to wake up to ensuring human rights, everyone’s rights.

“This was a real opportunity for UEFA to change their stance on this which they failed to take.”

The decision on stadium illumination follows an announcement from UEFA on Sunday that Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer would not face action over a rainbow armband he wore during the games against France and Portugal.

Neuer wore the armband to show his support for the LGBTQI+ community during Pride Month, prompting UEFA to investigate whether it could be viewed as a political statement.

But UEFA concluded there was no case to answer, given the 35-year-old was “promoting a good cause”.