An angry group of England supporters are preparing to protest Jordan Henderson’s controversial move to Saudi Arabia during the Three Lions’ clash with Ukraine on Saturday.
Former Liverpool captain Henderson joined Saudi Pro League giants Al-Ettifaq this summer on a £700,000-a-week deal, becoming the highest-paid British player in football history.
Henderson, who publicly and vocally advocated for LGBTQ+ rights during his time at Anfield, has faced backlash from fans after agreeing the deal, as homosexuality is deemed a crime in Saudi Arabia and is punishable by the death penalty.
The midfielder was also criticised further after he urged this week that his move to the Saudi Pro League was not motivated by money.
Henderson was selected in Gareth Southgate’s England squad to face Ukraine on Saturday, and members of the Three Lions Pride supporters group are planning a demonstration in a bid to protest the 33-year-old’s decision to move to the Middle East.
An angry group of England supporters are preparing to protest Jordan Henderson’s controversial move to Saudi Arabia during the Three Lions’ clash with Ukraine on Saturday
The former Liverpool captain left Anfield to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq this summer on a reported wage of £700,000-a-week, but he insists the move was not financially motivated
Gareth Southgate’s side take on Ukraine in their Euro 2024 qualifier at Wembley on Saturday
Several fans feel Henderson has turned his back on the LGBTQ+ community by moving to Saudi Arabia, and the supporters group plans to do the same to him in the stands if he features in the Euro 2024 qualifier.
Joe White, co-chair of the group, told the Mirror: ‘Having spoken to some of our members, there was a real sense of disappointment (after Henderson joined Al-Ettifaq).
‘There was a question on whether people were intending to boo, and the original intention was to try to focus on being supportive of the team.
‘But if we wanted to make a stand, then turning our backs is quite a symbolic move, particularly given how the community has felt.
‘Since his interview, that may well change. I would imagine people are more likely to boo or show an audible distaste.
‘There are members attending who we’ve spoken to and told the position of the group, which is to turn backs. If they want to boo that’s a personal decision.
Henderson has previously been a vocal ally of LGBTQ+ communities, wearing rainbow laces and armbands, but fans have accused him of abandoning those views by going to Saudi Arabia
Al-Ettifaq appeared to blur out Henderson’s rainbow-coloured flag in his announcement video
Joe White, Three Lions Pride co-chair
‘The issue with booing when you’re part of the England fan movement, it could also turn other fans against you who might not know the reasons behind it.
‘That was why our position as a group is turning backs. [It] is done in a way that still respects the England team, but makes the point quite clearly that we don’t have respect for Jordan anymore.’
Reflecting on The Athletic’s interview with Henderson on Tuesday, White criticised the former Liverpool star’s naivety when speaking about the cultures of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who hosted the World Cup last year.
Commenting on Henderson’s comments, he said: ‘It’s very much a disappointment. It doesn’t feel like it lines up with what he’s said his values are.
‘Saudi Arabia is a country that criminalises our existence, that penalises who we are. I don’t believe I’m LGBT. I am LGBT.
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Henderson (left) in training alongside James Maddison (centre) and captain Harry Kane (right)
‘A really important part that comes out in the interview is the naivety Henderson has, and that comes out when he’s talking about Qatar.
‘Of course in Qatar, as a professional footballer, you’re going to see the best side of a country because they want it to look great for you. Those on the ground have a very different feeling.
‘We saw rainbow flags being confiscated, people being strip-searched, people being detained for having anything with a rainbow on or anything related to LGBT issues. So there definitely is a naivety there that doesn’t match up.
‘And it’s one thing to say all of these things and to say that you’re an ally, to say that you are going above and beyond for the LGBTQ+ community but, actually, when your actions aren’t matching up to your words, that’s where there’s an issue.’