Rio Ferdinand has called on the football associations who backed down in wearing One Love armbands at the World Cup to be “stronger”, saying they “folded like a pack of cards”.
Seven nations, including England and Wales, had planned to wear the armband during matches in Qatar to promote diversity and inclusion.
However, under the threat of sporting punishment from FIFA, including a potential yellow card for the team captains, the nations have decided to not go ahead with the move.
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The decision was made less than 24 hours before England’s first game against Iran.
The seven nations said in a joint statement that they could not put their players "in a position where they could face sporting sanctions".
“I think the federations have to be stronger,” said former England and Manchester United captain Ferdinand on the BBC.
“The organisations have to come at this together with a unified approach and say this is where we stand, this is where we go now.
“They’ve had one bump in the road and they’ve folded like a pack of cards.”
The armband - which included a "heart containing colours representative of all backgrounds" - was proposed by the UEFA Working Group in support of inclusion and diversity. Same-sex relationships are criminalised in Qatar.
The English FA said that it contacted FIFA in September to notify them of its intention to wear the armband, but received no response.
Former England striker Alan Shearer said it was unfair that the players had to worry about the issue ahead of their opening game.
“I don’t think it’s fair on the players having to deal with this on the morning of a game.
“They have done incredible work and the manager, including during the pandemic. The FA knew it was in the rules that they weren’t allowed to wear the armband so having to face these questions…it’s not fair on the players when it could be one of the biggest games they will ever play.
“You are ready to play and all the players should be thinking about now is how to win the game.
“It would have made a huge statement, Harry Kane coming out with that armband on and then what would FIFA do?”
Instead of the One Love armband, England will wear FIFA’s 'No Discrimination' armband in the match against Iran.
FIFA’s campaign had been due to start from the quarter-finals but team captains can now wear the armband for the whole tournament.
Ferdinand added: “You can’t win as a footballer, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You speak out and people say you’re not a politician, get back in your box, and it’s very difficult.”
Former England right-back Alex Scott wore the One Love armband during BBC pitchside pundit duties in Qatar.
Ex-England defender Micah Richards said: “All you can do is highlight it. It’s about awareness.
“Even having discussion now is raising awareness.”
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