The government has accused the Football Association of being vague about terrorism, while also expressing disapproval of their choice to limit the use of the Wembley arch for showing support.
This week, the FA announced their decision to limit the times when the arch at the national stadium will be lit up. This came after a controversial move to acknowledge the Hamas attack on Israel with a minute of silence.
When questioned on Thursday, the official representative for the prime minister strongly expressed disapproval. They stated, “There can be no hesitation in addressing terrorism. It is appropriate to show support for those impacted and we were let down by their decision not to illuminate it after the incident in Israel.”
The Football Association (FA) has determined that Wembley should only be lit up for sports and entertainment events, following a review of its policies by the board. In a statement last month, FA CEO Mark Bullingham acknowledged the harm caused to the Jewish community by the decision to keep the stadium unlit during the England men’s friendly against Australia, which took place shortly after the Hamas attack.
Sources within the FA claim that the revised policy will not result in a decrease of support for various campaigns and causes. The potential for the arch to be illuminated in a symbol of unity has not been dismissed. However, there has been a shift in the previous practice of lighting the arch for multiple causes in recent times.
Following the Russian incursion into Ukraine in the previous year, the arch was lit up in the blue and yellow hues of the Ukrainian flag. In addition, it was also adorned in the colors of the French tricolor in remembrance of the tragic events in Paris in 2015. The arch has also been illuminated to show solidarity with International Women’s Day and to display the rainbow colors of the LGBTQI+ flag in response to Fifa’s ruling prohibiting England players from wearing rainbow armbands at the World Cup.
During the week of the 7 October attacks, the FA faced pressure to illuminate the arch in the colors of the Israeli flag. However, they chose to observe a moment of silence to honor both the victims of the attacks and the Palestinian victims of Israel’s offensive that followed. This decision was criticized by John Mann, the government’s advisor on antisemitism, who claimed it reflected a disregard for the Jewish community and demonstrated the FA’s lack of understanding of the situation. He stated, “By claiming to avoid politics, football has inadvertently become political.”
The Football Association seems to have recognized and addressed the criticism in its updated policy. It has privately emphasized that Wembley is primarily a venue for sports and entertainment, rather than a symbol of national importance.