FIFA Need To Poppy Off

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FIFA have rejected a request from England, Scotland and Wales, to wear poppies on armbands in the November international based games.

Fans have no doubt come across this since news broke at the turn of the week of the rejection from the ever so clean and ethical world organisation, and matters only intensified yesterday when Prime Minister Theresa May describing FIFA’s stance in Parliament as being ‘utterly outrageous’ and the truly bizarre thing is this in no way applies to normal domestic football – that’s why Premier League and Football League clubs have embroidered poppies on special kits to mark the remembrance, and then the clubs normally auction them off following that fixture date to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

For the background here, FIFA have a law prohibiting all national teams from displaying any symbol which can be qualified as political, religious or commercial and in all honesty that’s fair enough.

It’s football, not a place for grandstanding political issues – but whatever your thoughts on Armistice Day (and the media are again full of stories such as West Bromwich Albion’s James McClean refusal to wear a poppy – which is his right) it’s not political, it’s a personal choice of remembrance for those on all sides who lost lives in conflict.

Their service of their country, whatever country that may be, many would argue is the backbone as to why an organisation like FIFA could have a non ‘political, religious or commercial’ line in their rulebooks.

It’s a choice.

It sadly seems FIFA will only make choices that benefit themselves rather than extending that courtesy to the individual desires of others – a cynic would say that the combined Football Associations and MP Damian Collins (chair of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee) would better serve their time by stuffing a brown paper bag to grease the wheels of freedom of choice as for many years that seems to have been the preferred mechanism of choice for FIFA – when making choices.

The ridiculous thing here is a compromise was struck by England for the Spain friendly back at Wembley on November 12, 2011 and FIFA were perfectly on board with a poppy appearing on an armband back then – but having been beset by corruption, allegations and a drive to be more transparent and show themselves to be ethical, that comprise has gone out the window along with brown paper bags.

And only one of those needed to go out the window.

With May saying yesterday.

‘Before they start telling us what to do, they jolly well ought to sort their own house out. 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 they should be able to do so.’

FA Chairman Greg Clarke confirmed that the FA were ‘negotiating in good faith’ with FIFA to find a solution, but again there’s a solution that suited back in 2011, why is that no longer appropriate?

There’s a common thread in the media on this story, potential punishments should the Association’s ignore FIFA and that’s clearly come as a potential line from somebody inside the various FA’s but a points deduction could come under consideration, and late last night FIFA threatened just that with General Secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura quoted as saying that England, Scotland and Wales could face ‘any kind of sanction’ if the poppy was worn.

‘We have to apply uniformly and across the 211 member associations the laws of the game. Britain is not the only country that has been suffering from the result of war. The only question is why are we doing exceptions for just one country and not the rest of the world?’

Adding such sanctions would only be considered if a complaint was made.

‘It is not really my ambition to punish anybody. They just have to recognise themselves that they are part of the rules of the game and they should be ready to face any kind of sanctions or measures. (Upon complaint) ‘Then a decision will have to be taken.’

Unfortunately for FIFA in light of this matter, and the General Secretary, it’s also being questioned why the Republic of Ireland presumably had permission to mark the centenary of The Easter Rising on their shirts during the March based friendly with Switzerland and FIFA have confirmed they are now ‘evaluating’ that incident.

FIFA also pointed out that the laws of the game they uphold are set by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and referring to the Thunderbirds again, that organisation is made up of the four British FA’s and FIFA and they meet Thursday (today) and the push could simply be to scrap the law full stop as Scottish and English FA chief executives, Stewart Regan and Martin Glenn, have both confirmed it will be a topic for debate as they try and convince the panel to allow the poppy.

Again though the IFAB rules govern the game full stop, yet there isn’t this kind of ‘poppy block’ at club level, which seems slightly contradictory given FIFA’s IFAB stance on things.

Unless of course FIFA are inadvertently taking this stance as a precursor to try and take it further – surely they wouldn’t be that daft!

As above, with reference to shirt auctions after games have taken place and other fundraising activities, there’s no need for fans to concern themselves that clubs won’t be commemorating like normal this month.

Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the Rugby Football Union was quick to point out when asked that it wasn’t an issue for the autumn Test against South Africa at Twickenham next month.

He described their governing body World Rugby as being ‘very supportive’ and the Welsh rugby side have also confirmed they will be wearing a poppy for their Test match against Argentina – also on November 12.

Ritchie explained.

‘We are commemorating and remembering all people who have died in conflict. This is not a partisan thing or a political statement. This is something that is just right as an act of remembrance, and it is right to do it on the weekend when we play South Africa.’

FIFA want to clean themselves up, they want to put the past behind them and be the world body for the game both in spirit and in action – having found a compromise only a short few years back, wouldn’t sticking to that be a good start – and a great message to send – for Gianni Infantino.

Going back to Greg Clarke, he has confirmed that in his opinion ‘of course’ the poppies should be worn, but irrespective England will have poppies at Wembley.

Some press have reported this as England wearing the poppy despite FIFA involvement and despite ongoing negotiations, but in reality it appears Clarke was merely pointing out there would be a big poppy presence in and around the stadium itself.


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