FIFA has denied a request from the English and Scottish FAs to wear Remembrance Day poppies during their World Cup qualifier match on November 11th.
If you watched any Premier League action this weekend, you already saw them. Players, coaches, fans, commentators, all wearing small red poppies. The flowers are something of a football tradition in the UK around this time of year, worn to commemorate Remembrance Day (also called Armistice Day in some countries and coinciding with Veteran’s Day in the US). The British Legion has a good write-up on the poppy’s significance.
It just so happens that Remembrance Day also coincides with an international break this year. Indeed, the upcoming World Cup qualifier between England and Scotland falls on the day itself.
A spokesperson for the FA said this about the request:.
”We are working closely with the Royal British Legion once again this year to honour and remember the sacrifices made by those serving in the armed forces. In recent weeks, the FA has led remembrance discussions with Fifa to allow the England team to show its support for the Poppy Appeal during the World Cup qualifier with Scotland.”
Strictly speaking, wearing a poppy is considered a political message, which means players (and coaches and match officials) aren’t allowed to wear them during an official FIFA-sanctioned tournament match. England were granted a compromise solution when a similar situation came up five years ago which allowed Three Lions players to wear armbands with a poppy printed on them for a match against Spain. It was thought that England and Scotland would be granted a similar dispensation for their clash.
But FIFA has responded to the requests with a firm denial.
Nevertheless, FA chief Martin Glenn and SFA head Stewart Regan plan to meet with FIFA officials on Thursday to try and change their minds. They also want clarification on what potential punishments would be for breaking the rules. It’s thought that a fine would be an acceptable price to pay, while a points deduction would make things more complicated.
The Welsh FA is also making an appeal to wear poppies for their qualifier match with Serbia on November 12th.
Regan says that the poppies don’t violate the spirit of the rule, even if they do break the letter.
”We will be asking for their support to try to give the people of England and Scotland what they want. That is to use this match of a way of remembering people who lost their lives in the war. I can understand why they are doing this, but it is nothing more than a mark of respect. It is a personal choice. This is not about making some political point.”
The international break begins next Monday.