Sunday 22 September 2019

FAI hit with fine for 'display of a political symbol' against Switzerland

Harry Clarke

The Football Association of Ireland have been fined 5,000 Swiss francs (€4,670) for the "display of a political symbol" in their friendly win over Switzerland earlier this year.

The Republic of Ireland player's jerseys bore an Easter Rising symbol to mark the 100th anniversary of the uprising during a match against Switzerland on March 25 in the Aviva Stadium.

The Irish gesture came under scrutiny as part of the backlash into FIFA's refusal to allow the players of England and Scotland to wear black armbands carrying a poppy in their World Cup qualifying match last month.

British MP Damian Collins, the head of the House of Commons' Sport Committee, highlighted the fact that Ireland got away with the 1916 symbol and claimed that it was an example of double standards. FIFA responded by looking into that matter and announcing that the Irish tribute to the Easter Rising was being investigated.

The English FA were hit with a fine for 45,000 Swiss francs for several incidents, including "the display by the host association, the English team and spectators of a political symbol and several cases of spectator misconduct".

The Scottish Football Association and the Football Association of Wales have each been fined 20,000 Swiss francs (£15,692) and the Irish Football Association 15,000 Swiss francs (£11,769) for similar offences.

England and Scotland players wore armbands displaying poppies during their World Cup qualifier at Wembley on November 11. A number of other Armistice Day tributes also took place prior to the match.

FIFA had warned the associations the displaying of political symbols could be punishable ahead of the game but the FA and SFA both went ahead with plans for players to wear poppies. The FAW and IFA, for Wales and Northern Ireland matches against Serbia and Azerbaijan respectively, decided on plain black armbands for players but were still punished for displays of the poppy around the stadium. These included the wearing of poppies by players.

A statement from FIFA read: "England has been fined CHF 45,000 for several incidents in the framework of the England v Scotland match, including the display by the host association, the English team and spectators of a political symbol and several cases of spectator misconduct.

"Scotland, as the visiting association, has been fined CHF 20,000 for the display of the same political symbol and cases of misconduct committed by its own group of spectators.

"Wales has been fined CHF 20,000 and Northern Ireland CHF 15,000 in relation to several incidents, including the display of political symbols in the context of the Wales v Serbia and Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan matches."

FIFA bans political symbols and has made clear it considers the poppy to be one. The home associations argued it is no such thing.

Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, said: "With these decisions, it is not our intention to judge or question specific commemorations as we fully respect the significance of such moments in the respective countries, each one of them with its own history and background.

"However, keeping in mind that the rules need to be applied in a neutral and fair manner across FIFA's 211 member associations, the display, among others, of any political or religious symbol is strictly prohibited. In the stadium and on the pitch, there is only room for sport, nothing else."

Additional reporting by PA

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