Saturday 16 December 2017

Confirmed: England will wear poppies at Wembley against Scotland despite FIFA ban

England player wearing a black armband with a poppy symbol
England player wearing a black armband with a poppy symbol

Jack de Menezes

England players will wear poppies when they play Scotland on Remembrance Sunday next week despite a Fifa regulation banning them from doing so, the Football Association has said.

In a statement released on Wednesday night, the FA make it clear that the governing body intends to pay "an appropriate tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice" by having the England team wear black armbands bearing poppies.

"The poppy is an important symbol of remembrance and we do not believe it represents a political, religious or commercial message, nor does it relate to any one historical event," FA said.

"In keeping with the position agreed with Fifa back in 2011 and in what we believe is in accordance with Law 4, para 4, the FA intend to pay appropriate tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by having the England team wear black armbands bearing poppies in our fixture on Armistice Day."

Prior to the statement's release on Wednesday evening, FA chairman Greg Clarke had outlined his belief that England's players should wear poppies, and confirmed to ITV that regardless of the ongoing talks with Fifa over wearing the tribute, there will also be a visible presence of poppies inside the stadium.

“My personal opinion, and actually the same opinion I hold as the chair of the FA, is that of course we should wear poppies,” Mr Clarke told ITV. "We’re commemorating millions of people who gave their lives in wars over the last 100 years and they deserve that, and the people who lost relatives deserve that, and that’s our plan.

"We're balancing respect for the fallen and their families, with respect for the governing body, and we're negotiating in good faith with Fifa to try and find a solution, but there will be poppies at Wembley.”

Fifa regulations outlaw nations wearing anything that can be construed as a political or religious statement under the Fifa Equipment Regulations. Both the English and Scottish football associations have contacted the governing body to request an exception to the rule, but Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan claimed yesterday that Fifa is “sticking to the letter of the law”, though he hoped that a resolution to have the poppy displayed in some way would materialise.

Both football associations have also enquired over what the likely sanction will be if they are to defy Fifa’s ruling, with the threat of a points deduction a possibility. England currently lead Group F by two points and a small points deduction is unlikely to have a major impact on their campaign to reach the 2018 World Cup providing it is limited to one or two points, but Scotland cannot afford to lose ground as they sit in fourth and are a point behind both Lithuania and Slovenia.

The row mirrors similar disagreements in 2009 and 2011, the latter of which Fifa allowed England players to wear poppies on black armbands after initially threatening to ban the Three Lions from competing.

Prime Minister Theresa May also waded into the dispute on Wednesday as she labelled Fifa’s decision “utterly outrageous”, and told football’s governing body to “sort their own house out” before telling others what to do.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mrs May said: "I think the stance that has been taken by Fifa is utterly outrageous.

"Our football players want to recognise and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security. I think it is absolutely right that they should be able to do so.

"I think a clear message is going from this house we want our players to be able to wear those poppies and I have to say to Fifa that before they start telling us what to do they jolly well ought to sort their own house out."

Fifa’s ruling was in place long before the FA contacted them to ask for the exception, but that has not stopped them being roundly criticised by British football fans over not allowing what is largely seen as a sign of respect to those who have died at war, rather than a political statement as is outlawed by Fifa.

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe and chair of the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, was sent a letter to Fifa president Gianni Infantino asking him to reverse the decision – which Mr Collins said had been deemed “insulting and disrespectful”.

The FA has long supported the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, with the Premier League also taking part in tributes with poppies featuring on club shirts during the last week of October and the first two weeks of November each year.

Independent News Service

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