No 10 accuses the FA of being ‘ambiguous’ on terrorism by choosing to stop lighting Arch | football

Downing Street has accused the Football Association of equivocation on terrorism and criticized the decision to restrict the use of the Wembley Arch to convey messages of solidarity.

The FA decided this week to limit the occasions on which the National Stadium’s arch is illuminated following the controversial decision to mark Hamas’ attack on Israel with just a minute’s silence.

When asked about the move on Thursday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was extremely critical. “When it comes to terrorism, there can be no room for ambiguity,” they said. “It is right to stand with those affected and we were disappointed that they chose not to act in response to the attack in Israel.”

The FA concluded that Wembley should only be lit for sporting and entertainment purposes after its board reflected on its policy. FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said last month he “acknowledged the pain” caused to the Jewish community by the decision to leave the arch unlit during England’s men’s friendly against Australia in the week after the Hamas attack .

FA sources insist the change in policy will not result in the organization withdrawing from supporting a range of campaigns and causes and that the possibility of the arch being lit as an act of solidarity has not been ruled out. However, in recent years there has been a reversal of approach, resulting in the arch being lit for various reasons.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, the arch was illuminated in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag and featured the colors of the French tricolor after the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. It was also lit up in support of International Women’s Day and featured the rainbow colors of the LGBTQI+ flag last year after FIFA decided to ban England players from wearing rainbow armbands at the World Cup.

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In the week of the October 7 attacks, the FA came under pressure to light the arch in the colors of the Israeli flag. She instead chose a period of silence to honor the victims of the attacks and the Palestinian victims of Israel’s subsequent offensive. At the time, government adviser on anti-Semitism John Mann said the decision showed “Jews don’t count” and argued the FA appeared to be overwhelmed. “By saying it wants to avoid politics, football ends up playing politics,” he said.

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The FA appears to have acknowledged this criticism in its new policy, privately emphasizing that Wembley is primarily a sports and entertainment venue and not a national monument.

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