A senior European Union official said he could find no “reasonable excuse” for UEFA to reject plans by host city Munich to show the colors of the rainbow during a match between Germany and Hungary at the European Championships.
UEFA said it understood the city’s intention to send a message to promote diversity and inclusion, but stressed that it was a “politically and religiously neutral organization” after rejecting the stadium’s application to light up LGBT rights.
“Yes, it is very difficult for me to understand what UEFA is trying to do by opposing this initiative of the Munich City Council,” said European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Shinas during a pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “Honestly, I don’t find a reasonable excuse for that.”
Shinas said he was even more surprised by the decision, as the governing body of European football had previously supported inclusion campaigns against racism.
“They supported all good causes. And suddenly they make a problem out of it, “he said.
UEFA, which has the final say as tournament organizer, has previously said it must reject Munich’s request because of its political context – “a message aimed at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament”.
“UEFA respects the rainbow,” European football officials said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is a symbol that embodies our core values, promoting everything we believe in – a fairer and more equal society, tolerant of all, regardless of their background, beliefs or gender,” said UEFA.
UEFA has insisted that the decision to reject the request has been misinterpreted by those who see it as a political statement.
“On the contrary, the request itself was political, related to the presence of the Hungarian football team at the stadium for the match with Germany tonight,” it said. “For UEFA, the rainbow is not a political symbol, but a sign of our strong commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society.”
Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter’s statement to UEFA made it clear that the city wants to protest a law passed by Hungarian lawmakers last week that bans the sharing of any content depicting homosexuality or gender reassignment with minors. The law has been denounced as discrimination against LGBT people by human rights groups who say it links homosexuality to pedophilia.
In a statement Wednesday, the EU’s chief executive vowed to take all necessary action to thwart the new law, which must be approved by Hungary’s president to take effect.
“This Hungarian bill is a disgrace,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
UEFA said it believed that “discrimination can only be fought in close cooperation with others” and suggested that Munich light up the stadium in rainbow colors on June 28 for Christopher Street Day, a day celebrating LGBT rights, or between 3- July 9 for Christopher Street Day Week in the city.
Several other non-Euro 2020 stadiums in Germany have said they will light their seats in rainbow colors.