FIFA set to grant poppies compromise

FIFA looks set to allow players from England, Scotland and Wales to wear poppies on armbands during next week’s World Cup qualifiers.

Repeating a precedent set in 2011, the decision would be a compromise on FIFA’s usual ban on any commercial, political or religious messages on shirts.

England host Scotland at Wembley on November 11, Armistice Day, while Wales play Serbia in Cardiff the following evening.

The English, Scottish and Welsh Football Associations have asked FIFA if they would be punished for wearing poppies on armbands during their games, and Press Association Sport understands that all parties are keen to find a sensible solution.

England wore armbands with poppies on them when they played Spain on November 12, 2011. Scotland also did in Cyprus and Wales when they hosted Norway that same year.

A spokesperson for the Royal British Legion, the charity that organises the Poppy Appeal in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, said: “We see no reason why the poppy should be banned from players’ shirts as it is not a political symbol.

“However, we understand a compromise will be found in armbands with the poppy on so that England players will enter the competition knowing they have shown respect for our armed forces.

“We are working closely with the FA to ensure the commitment and sacrifice of our Armed Forces is recognised during the Armistice Day match at Wembley.”

A statement from the FA confirmed that it wanted to “honour and remember the sacrifices made by those serving in the armed forces” and said it had ” led remembrance discussions with FIFA to allow the England team to show its support for the Poppy Appeal” during the eagerly-anticipated game against Scotland.

Poppyscotland produces poppies north of the border and Scotland’s players, who will be wearing a pink away strip against England, are also eager to support its work for veterans.

A Scottish FA spokesperson told PA Sport: “We are in dialogue with our colleagues at the FA and with FIFA and are optimistic of an outcome that enables both teams and their respective fans to pay appropriate respect on Armistice Day.”

A spokesperson for the FA of Wales gave a similar statement and added that the Welsh team would be observing the two-minute silence in training on Armistice Day and attending a war memorial on Remembrance Sunday, November 13.

The matter has stirred political debate with Scottish Labour’s Westminster spokesman Ian Murray MP submitting an Early Day Motion for a debate on the matter in the House of Commons.

Murray said: “FIFA must allow the national teams of both England and Scotland to commemorate those (who) gave the ultimate sacrifice by wearing the poppy in the World Cup qualifying match on Armistice Day.

“The poppy is a worldwide symbol of solidarity, peace and remembrance.

“This year, commemorations are additionally poignant as it is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, when so many on all sides fell.”

UKIP leadership candidate Paul Nuttall, a North West MEP, said the ban was ” complete poppycock”.

“It is utter nonsense for FIFA to forbid them wearing poppies on their shirts because they sniffily consider it ‘a political statement’,” said Nuttall.

“It makes my blood absolutely boil that they should interfere in this way. How dare they?”

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