Tuesday 20 February 2018

England to display poppy after FIFA compromise

Martyn Ziegler

England players will have poppies on their black armbands when they play against Spain on Saturday after FIFA agreed to a compromise.

The agreement with the Football Association means that FIFA's rules preventing symbols on shirts are still adhered to but will allow the poppies to be displayed.

Wales will also follow suit against Norway while Scotland hope to adopt the same approach against Cyprus in Larnaca on Friday but will first consult with their hosts.

An FA statement said: "The FA can confirm that FIFA has today agreed that the England team will now be permitted to wear a poppy on the black armbands the players will wear during Saturday's match with Spain.

"While continuing to adhere to the laws of the game, wearing the poppy on the armband does ensure the poppy will be visible throughout the game.

"The FA welcomes FIFA's decision and thanks them for agreeing to this."

The announcement should bring an end to the dispute which led to both Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William, in his role as president of the FA, writing to FIFA to ask them to reconsider.

It is understood that the compromise was proposed by a Conservative MP and facilitated by a FIFA adviser - even though there was opposition from some within the world body after they were targeted two protesters from the English Defence League.

The two men climbed onto the roof of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich with a banner, with two poppies on it, which said: 'English defence League. How dare FIFA disrespect our war dead and wounded. Support out troops'.

The incident won no support from the FA, given that the EDL are a far-right group whose founder Stephen Lennon was convicted in July of leading a street brawl with 100 football fans.

The FA also announced a series of other measures to show their support for the Poppy Appeal.

All England under-21, under-19s players and staff will be wear poppies before and after their matches tomorrow evening, and observe a one minute silence.

On Friday at training at Wembley the England squad will observe the two minute silence at 11am, all wearing training tops embossed with poppies.

Ahead of the Spain game, a poppy wreath will be placed on the pitch during the national anthems, with military representatives in the presentation party prior to kick-off before which there will be a one minute silence and the England players will wear black armbands.

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that a Conservative MP who qualified as a referee as a 12-year-old played a key role in securing FIFA's agreement to a compromise.

Chris Heaton-Harris, the MP for Daventry, studied FIFA's regulations and realised that although they prohibited such symbols on team shirts of national teams they would allow poppies to be on the armbands.

He contacted a FIFA adviser with the proposal and was put in touch with FIFA's secretary general Jerome Valcke, and then spoke to Football Association executives to secure the agreement.

Heaton-Harris told Press Association Sport: "I was reading the FIFA regulations and it was fairly obvious you could not have a poppy on the shirt - but that you could on an armband.

"I contacted someone close to FIFA and ended up speaking to Jerome Valcke on the phone and then the FA.

"There was a lot of stuff going on in the background with the Prime Minister and Prince William both writing to FIFA but I did have a small part to play."

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