UEFA defend stance on rainbow row: Symbol is not political

Why UEFA won't allow Munich rainbow stadium (1:14)

Gab Marcotti explains why UEFA have turned down a request to turn Munich's stadium to rainbow colours on Wednesday. (1:14)

UEFA has defended its decision not to allow the Allianz Arena to display the rainbow flag for the Euro 2020 clash between Hungary and Germany on Wednesday.

Munich mayor Dieter Reiter wrote to UEFA to ask permission to light up the stadium in Munich with rainbow colours after Germany captain Manuel Neuer wore a rainbow armband against France to show the DFB's support for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month.

The application made clear the city wanted to protest a law passed by Hungarian lawmakers last week that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment. The law has been denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination by human rights groups, who say it links homosexuality with pedaphilia.

UEFA denied the request and said the rainbow symbol was not the reason for the decision but Hungary's presence at the game.

A statement on Wednesday read: "UEFA is proud to wear the colours of the rainbow. It is a symbol that embodies our core values, promoting everything that we believe in -- a more just and egalitarian society, tolerant of everyone, regardless of their background, belief or gender.

"Some people have interpreted UEFA's decision to turn down the city of Munich's request to illuminate the Munich stadium in rainbow colours for a EURO 2020 match as 'political.'

"On the contrary, the request itself was political, linked to the Hungarian football team's presence in the stadium for this evening's match with Germany.

"For UEFA, the rainbow is not a political symbol, but a sign of our firm commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society."

Nonetheless, rainbow flags outnumbered German flags when fans arrived to the Munich stadium on Wednesday. Supporters were met at the exit of the Frottmaning subway station by a host of volunteers from groups including Amnesty International, CSD Germany and S'AG Munich distributing rainbow flags. Other demonstrators simply turned up to protest UEFA's decision.

The Germany FA also tweeted a message of support before the match, with Neuer wearing a rainbow armband once again. Prior to kick-off, a fan waving a rainbow flag was removed from the pitch as Hungary's national anthem was played.

UEFA's decision was also met with criticism by several Bundesliga clubs as well footballers Antoine Griezmann, Gerard Pique, Katie McCabe and Pernille Harder.

Belgium confirmed the captain will wear rainbow colours on his armband at the Euro 2020 knockout clash on Sunday and the country's football association (KBVB) are considering further ways to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.

"We totally disagree with the UEFA decision and are probably going to play on Sunday with a rainbow band," said spokesman Stefan van Loock on Wednesday.

"UEFA should have allowed the rainbow colours to be displayed at the German stadium," he added.

"If they say themselves that they are for integration, equality and transparency, then it would have been the appropriate way to display it.

"We are considering how we can all display the rainbow colours in our match on Sunday, but our captain will have it on his armband."

A large banner in rainbow colours, together with the Belgian association's badge, was prominently flown at the entrance to the team's training camp in Tubize, some 25km south of Brussels, on Wednesday.

"We won't unfortunately get to see any stadium in rainbow colours today so a flag at our training complex was the least we could do to symbolically show that we are not in agreement, at all, with what UEFA have decided," Van Loock said.

UEFA proposed alternative dates to Munich of June 28 or between July 3-9 around Christopher Street Day events held in memory of an uprising by homosexuals in New York in 1969.

A top European Union also official said he can't find "any reasonable excuse" for UEFA to reject host city Munich's plans to display rainbow colours.

"Yes, I find it very difficult to understand what UEFA is trying to do by going against this initiative of the Munich city council," European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said during a news conference ahead of Wednesday's match. "Frankly, I do not find any reasonable excuse for that."

He added: "They supported all the good causes. And all of a sudden, they make an issue out of this."

In a statement on Wednesday, the European Union's chief executive vowed to take any action necessary to thwart the new law, which must be endorsed by Hungary's president to take effect.

"This Hungarian bill is a shame," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Several other stadiums in Germany that are unaffiliated with the Euro 2020 tournament said they would light up their venues in rainbow colours.

Information from Associated Press and Reuters was included in this report.