Leah Williamson has confirmed that England will wear the OneLove armband during their Arnold Clark Cup campaign, emphasising the importance of the equality message in the week that Jakub Jankto became the most high profile current male footballer to come out as gay.
The OneLove armband is part of an anti-discrimination movement and had been intended to be worn by seven teams at the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar – a country where homosexuality is illegal.
However, on the eve of the tournament, England and the six other nations back tracked on their decision to wear the armband after being threatened with sanctions by FIFA. All participating countries instead wore Fifa approved armbands promoting different social messages.
“We’re never shy in saying what we stand for, we’re a squad that promotes inclusivity, equality,” Williamson said. “We obviously have a number of people that feel very strongly about it and I think it’s not even a question for us really.
“You’ve just seen another men’s player [Jakub Jankto] step out and be as brave as they can be and potentially change their whole life; they don’t know what’s coming. So for us to stand in solidarity with that is important for us.
“It’s something we’ve always done, it’s something we’ll continue to do. We’re not just impacting football, we’re trying to have an impact on society and that’s one of the ways we can do that.
During England’s triumphant Euro 2022 campaign, the Lionesses and many other teams at the tournament wore a rainbow armband in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
England went on to wear the OneLove armband during October’s international break, and many captains have subsequently worn it in the WSL. Williamson hinted the Lionesses would look to make a similar stand at this summer’s World Cup.
“You hope that it’s not a last minute call once we get there [the 2023 World Cup],” the England captain added. “It’s something we want to do all year round, we’ve done previously.
“I think the statement that was made at the Euros last summer with every time participating, I think that’s incredible. Every picture we have with a trophy lift, there’s a rainbow armband in there so I think it’s a great stage and a great time to promote those values that we believe in so much.”
Sparta Prague’s Jankto publicly confirmed his sexuality on Monday, becoming the only openly gay male player currently representing a European top flight club.
Williamson described the Czech Republic international as a ‘main factor’ in England’s decision to wear the OneLove armband.
“It’s a journey that the world is on that isn’t quite where we want it to be yet so it’s something we’ll continue to fight for,” the Arsenal defender added. “Jakub as well he was a main factor. It stands against discrimination of any form, if you stand with that then you want to eradicate that discrimination from the game and I hope where there’s multiple conversations going on elsewhere.
“Of course it’s a positive message to anyone that disagrees that football’s a place for everyone.”