Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pixabay
UEFA is investigating after fans appeared to have their rainbow flag was taken off them during Denmark’s match against the Czech Republic in Azerbaijan in a UEFA European Football Championship match on Saturday (3 July)
Photos, which have been shared widely on social media, show a pair holding up the rainbow flag before stewards confiscate it.
Photographers captured the moment two spectators were approached by two stewards ahead of the game at the Baku Olympic Stadium, which ended in a 2-1 victory for Denmark.
"We are currently investigating what happened"
In a statement, provided to The Athletic, UEFA said: “UEFA never instructed stewards in Baku — or in any other stadium — to confiscate rainbow flags.
“We are currently investigating what happened and we will of course contact the UEFA delegate, UEFA Security officer and local authorities to clear this up.
“The rainbow flag is a symbol that embodies UEFA core values, promoting everything that we believe in — a more just and egalitarian society, tolerant of everyone and UEFA has ensured that the flag was returned to the supporter.”
Azerbaijan was ranked last in the LGBTQ advocacy group, IGLA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe map earlier this year. Gay couples aren’t legally recognised or allowed to marry or adopt children.
"Be brave, stand tall and stand up"
This isn’t the first time during this Euros championship that support for the LGBTQ community has been an issue.
UEFA stopped the Allianz stadium in Germany from being lit up in rainbow colours during Germany’s match against Hungary in solidarity with the community after the latter country introduced an anti-LGBTQ piece of legislation prohibiting content portraying the community to under-18s.
UEFA, whose Twitter logo was rainbow coloured for Pride month, defended that decision saying the rainbow was “not a political symbol” and that it was a "politically and religiously neutral organisation".
And on Friday (2 July) the carmaker, Volkswagen, said it had been prohibited, again by UEFA, from using the rainbow colours in advertising in matches in Russia and Azerbaijan. UEFA said this was due to local laws on the matter.
Both moves have drawn sharp criticism of UEFA. The football referee and Stonewall and Athlete Ally ambassador Ryan Atkin, who is gay, told Attitude: “Uefa desperately needs to tackle homophobia in football. It’s their tournament, their rules so be brave, stand tall and stand up.
"Brands - and their money - and the majority of fans and clubs would be fully behind you.”