England and Scotland will face FIFA sanctions after insisting they will feature embroidered poppies honoring Britain’s war dead on their soccer jerseys for a match between the neighbors. England and Scotland will meet for a World Cup qualifier on Nov. 11, Britain’s Remembrance Day, when British Commonwealth forces who have died on duty since World War I are honored.
Both associations asked FIFA to let their players wear the commemorative poppies somewhere on their jerseys, but that would breach rules banning political, religious, personal or commercial messages on official uniforms and equipment.
Granting an exemption for England and Scotland would create a political minefield, according to soccer’s governing body.
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said yesterday that she had already been approached by other member associations asking for “similar exceptions” and the “response has been the same: We have to apply uniformly and across the 211 member associations the laws of the game.”
“You could make many exceptions,” Samoura, a Senegalese, added on the BBC. “Britain is not the only country that has been suffering from the result of war. Syria is an example. My own continent has been torn by war for years. And the only question is why are we doing exceptions for just one country and not the rest of the world?”
In separate statements, the English and Scottish Football Associations both insisted that the “poppy is an important symbol of remembrance and we do not believe it represents a political, religious or commercial message, nor does it relate to any one historical event.”
The associations added that they intend to “pay appropriate tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by having the England team wear black armbands bearing poppies in our fixture on Armistice Day.” The Scottish FA was yet to say whether its players would wear similar armbands.
A FIFA compromise in 2011 allowed England players to wear the poppy on black armbands for a friendly game against Spain. Since then, the FIFA leadership has completely changed. England and Scotland are unlikely to face a points deduction in their World Cup qualifying group, with a fine more probable.
“It is not really my ambition to punish anybody,” Samoura said at Wembley ahead of a meeting of the International Football Association Board, which features the English and Scottish FAs. “They just have to recognize themselves that they are part of the rules of the game and they should be ready to face any kind of sanctions or measures against. They know better than me because they made the law.”
The dispute spread to the House of Commons yesterday with British Prime Minister Theresa May condemning FIFA’s ban as “utterly outrageous.”
“Our football players want to recognize and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security,” May said. “I think it is absolutely right that they should be able to do so.”