UEFA declines Munich application for rainbow-colored stadium

Jun 21, 2021, 2:08 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2021, 3:58 pm

MUNICH (AP) — German soccer clubs are banding together to display rainbow colors during the country’s match against Hungary at the European Championship after UEFA rejected host city Munich’s plan to do the same.

Clubs in Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Bremen and Düsseldorf will light up their venues during Wednesday’s final group game in Munich in response to UEFA’s decision to deny the city council’s application to have its stadium illuminated in rainbow colors.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer which has the final say as tournament organizer, said Tuesday that it understood the intention behind the council’s proposal but “must decline this request” because of its political context — “a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament.”

Bavaria’s Lesbian and Gay Association said it will hold protests outside and inside the stadium, while CSD Germany said it was co-operating with other groups, including Queeramnesty, to distribute 11,000 rainbow flags to fans attending the game.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter’s application toUEFA made clear the city wanted to protest a law passed by Hungarian lawmakers last week that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment. The law was denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination by human rights groups.

Reiter described UEFA’s decision as “shameful” and said it was “very disappointing” that the German soccer federation failed to give the city’s proposal more support.

Federation spokesman Jens Grittner suggested Monday that it might be an option to display the colors in the days after Hungary’s visit. Munich will host a quarterfinal match at Euro 2020 on July 2.

“A laughable counter-proposal,” Reiter said. “I don’t know what the point of this proposal is supposed to be.”

Reiter said he expects to raise rainbow flags over city hall and have a wind turbine near the stadium and the city’s Olympic Tower illuminated in rainbow colors, too.

“We in Munich certainly won’t let ourselves be discouraged from sending a clear signal to Hungary and the world,” Reiter said.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó criticized the German position on Monday.

“In Hungary we have passed a law to protect Hungarian children, and now in Western Europe they are griping about it,” Szijjártó said in Luxembourg. “They want to express this by including politics in a sporting event, which has nothing to do with the passing of national laws.”

UEFA said it believes “that discrimination can only be fought in close collaboration with others” and it proposed that Munich illuminates the stadium with the rainbow colors on June 28 for Christopher Street Day or between July 3-9 for the Christopher Street Day week in the city.

The body said these dates “align better with existing events.”

But the delayed action undermined Munich’s planned protest against what it called “the homophobic and transphobic legislation of the Hungarian government.”

Hungary’s National Assembly approved the bill against sharing LGBT content with minors in a 157-1 vote last week, when one independent lawmaker voted against it and all other opposition parties boycotted the voting session in protest.

“This legislation represents a new mark in the invisibility and disenfranchisement of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) and adds to the systematic restriction of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms that have been practiced for years in Hungary,” the Munich council said in its application, which had cross-party support.

UEFA said it understood the council’s intention to send a message to promote diversity and inclusion but stressed that it was “a politically and religiously neutral organization.”

Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for Europe, said UEFA’s decision was “bitter, but expected” and he called for fans attending the game to show their colors in the stadium.

“Set an example for diversity and solidarity with LGBTI people in Hungary and all over Europe! LGBTI rights are human rights!” Roth wrote on Twitter.

Bavarian governor Markus Söder also regretted UEFA’s decision.

“It would have been a very good sign of tolerance and freedom. We have to stand up against exclusion and discrimination,” Söder said in a post on Twitter.

Plans for other stadiums, where the tournament is not being played, to be illuminated with rainbow colors quickly gathered support on Tuesday.

“If Munich is not allowed on Wednesday, then the other stadiums in the country will have to show their colors. Come now, league colleagues!” Eintracht Frankfurt board spokesman Axel Hellmann said on Twitter.

Cologne was the first to follow, with the other cities soon joining.

Berlin Deputy Mayor Ramona Pop accused UEFA of hypocrisy.

“Always happy to be lauded for actions against homophobia and racism, but not allowing a rainbow stadium as a symbol of tolerance and diversity at Euro 2020. What a poor showing, UEFA!” Pop said.

On Sunday, UEFA gave the go-ahead for Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to continue wearing a captain’s armband with the rainbow colors at the tournament.

“What does the rainbow stand for?” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert asked on Monday. “It stands for how we want to live: With respect for each other, without the discrimination that has long excluded minorities. And surely the vast majority of people can relate to that.”

Germany coach Joachim Löw said the team will keep advocating tolerance and diversity.

“Personally I would have liked it if the stadium had been lit up in these colors, if these lights had come on,” Löw said. “We have set signs in the past and will continue to do so in the future. But it’s important that these values are also lived.”

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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UEFA declines Munich application for rainbow-colored stadium