German retailer Rewe Group has suspended its partnership with the country’s football federation after Fifa was accused of barring the wearing of rainbow-themed armbands at the Qatar World Cup.
The supermarket chain called the stance by world football’s governing body “scandalous” after European teams including Germany ditched plans to wear the “One Love” armbands promoting inclusion, citing pressure from Fifa. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Fifa made it clear that captains would receive yellow cards for wearing unapproved armbands.
“Fifa’s scandalous stance is totally unacceptable to me as the CEO of a diverse company and as a football fan,” said Rewe Group chief Lionel Souque on Tuesday.
The German Football Association and Fifa did not respond to requests for comment.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Saturday that the time had come to stop talking politics in order to focus on football. However, concerns over Qatar’s intolerance of LGBT+ rights and poor human rights record have overshadowed the start of the tournament.
The German federation was among a group of seven Uefa nations to condemn Fifa’s stance on Monday, when DFB president Bernd Neuendorf said Fifa’s threat to punish players wearing rainbow-themed armbands with yellow cards was an “unprecedented first in the history of the World Cup”.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband,” the European football associations said in a statement. “However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.”
The group includes Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales.
Rewe said it had informed the DFB in October that it would end its current partnership when its term concluded at the end of 2022, but moved to suspend the agreement in light of Fifa’s prohibition on player armbands.
Rewe, which has been a sponsor of the federation since 2008, said that “the company feels called upon to clearly distance itself from Fifa’s position” but wishes the German national team success in the tournament.
Fifa’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has had other consequences for large sponsors. The Gulf state’s late decision to ban the sale of beer in fan zones outside stadiums will hit sales of Budweiser, a brand owned by drinks giant AB InBev and a longstanding Fifa partner.
Rewe, which operates 3,700 grocery stores throughout Germany, posted 2021 revenues of €26.7bn in 2021. It also operates the discount chain Penny, which has a presence in several central and eastern Europe countries. The Cologne-based company said earlier this year that it plans to increase its international expansion in the coming years.