Germany players posed with their hands covering their mouths before facing Japan at the Qatar World Cup in Doha in November 2022. | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

The effects of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Euro 2024 — set to take place in Germany — are real. And the LGBTQ community is feeling it.

“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice,” said the German FA on social media, after the men’s national team’s first fixture at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Every Germany player in the starting line-up had posed for the traditional pre-match photo with a hand over their mouth.

The gesture suggested they had been silenced, having been warned by FIFA that use of a ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband in support of LGBTQ inclusion would bring an unspecified sanction.

The Germans went on to lose to Japan, 2-1. A little more than a week later, they were heading home after finishing third in their group.

Now it’s time for their next major international soccer tournament — and this time, they’re the hosts. Germany will open Euro 2024 against Scotland in Munich on Friday.

It’s set to be the most inclusive and sustainable Euros ever, with gender-neutral bathrooms in every stadium and the choice of a ‘friendlier’ ticket lane for those who find standard security body checks uncomfortable.

The global audience is tipped to be around five billion people. But with barely any focus being placed on LGBTQ rights ahead of a major sports event in one of the world’s most gay-friendly countries, it’s a very different build-up for campaigning fans and activists.

Alice Drouin works for LGBTQ lobby group LSVD Berlin-Brandenburg and is the project manager of Pride House Berlin, the dedicated inclusion venue in the capital. It will show all 51 games live while hosting talks, tournaments and other related activities.

“Qatar had huge consequences and did a lot of damage,” she tells a new episode of the Fooball v Homophobia Podcast. “If you ask me, the World Cup there was a huge mistake on so many levels.”

As well as the controversy around the armbands and the Germany team’s gesture, there was also the confiscation of numerous Pride rainbow items in stadiums by security officials and next to no acknowledgement from FIFA of the discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws that exist in most Gulf states.

With Germany failing to reach the knockout stage, some fans and the media put the blame on the team’s public stance about human rights, claiming it had been a distraction.

“You can definitely sense that this year, it doesn’t seem like they will take public positions on any social topic,” adds Drouin.

“We don’t expect the players to act or express themselves publicly on diversity similar to what they did in Qatar. That wasn’t a good experience for them.

“But as long as the structures around them are not taking a stance, you can’t expect players to do so. It’s putting way too much responsibility on them.

“Whatever they do, they will be punished for it.”

‘The story’s not as juicy this time’

England has an official LGBTQ supporters group called Three Lions Pride, formed in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Euro 2024 will be the first major tournament in which the group’s members will be traveling abroad in significant numbers, and they plan to be “as visible as possible” in Germany.

Joe White is one of the group’s co-founders and says there is still a “hangover” from Qatar.

“Human rights is not at the forefront of the conversation, so there’s less impetus for teams to do something,” they tell the FvH Podcast.

“I think that’s a real shame because actually, we’re better to have actions and make things as queer as possible in a country that accepts it, that endorses people being able to be who they are and live safely. That would be a really strong message.

“You can do a whole lot more without having to potentially run the risk of getting in trouble.”

Three Lions Pride’s Joe White (second from right) will be in Germany for the duration of England’s stay

The last men’s Euros were delayed until summer 2021, and were held in 11 cities across the continent.

As will be the case again this year, most of the games were played during Pride Month in June. The captains of England and Germany wore rainbow armbands, while several sponsors also used the Pride flag colors to show support.

UEFA even issued a “respect the rainbow” statement after being criticized for reportedly launching an investigation into the armbands and for not allowing authorities in Munich to illuminate the stadium as a symbol of inclusion.

White doesn’t anticipate a repeat of the confederation’s stumbles. “UEFA have very strongly put out that rainbows and any Pride flags are welcome in stadia, so that’s definitely progress.

“Then there’s the gender-neutral toilets and queues, so there are things being done. But it’s not having the same coverage because it’s not as ‘juicy’ a story for the mainstream media.

“Most of the visibility we’ll get is in the stands. In some ways, it feels like it’s going back to 10 years ago when we started LGBTQ fan groups because we weren’t getting the visibility on the pitch, and governing bodies weren’t saying anything out of fear or a complete lack of knowledge or disregard to human rights issues. And so fans took it on themselves to be that voice.

Concerns are being raised over the threat of hooliganism around England’s Group C opener against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.

Similarly, scrutiny will be on the fans of Hungary who are in Group A with Germany and Scotland. The Hungarian FA was fined by UEFA three years ago and ordered to play matches behind closed doors after some of their supporters unfurled racist and homophobic banners inside their home stadium in Budapest during Euro 2020.

There is also a potential flashpoint in Munich on June 22, when the city’s annual Pride march will be held while Serbia fans are staying in the vicinity between matches.

Of course, the hope is that all these moments are well managed by the authorities and pass off without incident.

And although there will yet again be no out representation in terms of players or match officials (Jakub Jankto, who played at Euro 2020 and then came out publicly last year, is not in the Czech Republic squad), the mood among LGBTQ fans is overwhelmingly upbeat.

Amid so much political and societal upheaval in Europe, a gay-friendly festival of football would be very welcome indeed. It’s time to get the party started.