Politicians, war veterans’ groups and serving armed forces personnel have blasted Fifa, football’s world governing body, after it issued fines to all of the UK’s four national football associations because players wore Remembrance Day poppies.
The England Football Association has been ordered to pay £35,300 over a number of alleged rule breaches, including footballers donning poppies on armbands to show their respect on Armistice Day during a World Cup qualifier against Scotland. Meanwhile, Scotland was told to pay nearly £16,000.
Wales was told it must pay a similar amount, while the Irish FA was fined £12,000 for regulation breaches, including spectators wearing poppies. The English FA said immediately it would be appealing the ruling.
Meanwhile, sports minister Tracey Crouch described it as disappointing that Fifa had failed to realise what the poppy signified. She said it was not a political symbol, but a tribute to the sacrifices made by service personnel past and present.
Rather than wearing poppies on their shirts, England and Scotland players tried to play by the rules by wearing them on armbands. Meanwhile players from Wales and Northern Ireland took the decision to wear plain black armbands, but they were still fined for other alleged breaches of regulations.
The Football Association of Ireland was also fined – £4,000 – after players donned shirts in memory of the 1916 Easter Rising. Fifa disciplinary committee chair Claudio Sulser defended the fines by saying there was only room for sport and nothing else on the pitch and in the stadium.
However, Charles Byrne, the director general of the Royal British Legion said the poppy was not a political or religious symbol, but one of remembrance and hope for the future. He said it was particularly worrying that Fifa was trying to dictate was football spectators should wear. Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson agreed, saying players and fans should be able to show their respect for servicemen and women.