Football: England and Scotland to defy Fifa poppy ban

Poppy badges for sale before the match at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England on Nov 1, 2016.
Poppy badges for sale before the match at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England on Nov 1, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - England and Scotland are planning to defy a Fifa ban on players wearing poppies during their World Cup qualifier on Nov 11, their Football Associations said on Wednesday (Nov 2).

Fifa rules forbid players from wearing anything that can be perceived as a political statement and England and Scotland could be punished if they do not comply.

"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 English FA tweeted.

"In keeping with the position agreed with Fifa back in 2011 and in what we believe is in accordance with Law 4, para 4, the FA intends 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 made a similar statement. "We intend to pay appropriate tribute by having the Scotland national team wear black armbands bearing poppies," it said.

Fifa earlier confirmed its position on the issue.

"Fifa fully respects the significance of commemorating Remembrance Day on 11 November each year," it said in a statement.

"The Laws of the Game are overseen by the International Football Association Board and applicable to all 211 member associations. The relevant law clearly states that the players equipment should not carry any political, religious or commercial messages."

British Prime Minister Theresa May strongly criticised Fifa earlier on Wednesday.

"I think the stance that's been taken by Fifa is utterly outrageous," May said in parliament. "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 that they should be able to do so."

"It is for our Football Association, but I think the clear message is going from this House (of Commons): we want our players to be able to wear those poppies," she added.

Fifa is trying to recover from the worst graft scandal in its history which has seen 42 people, including former Fifa executive committee members, indicted in the United States since May last year.

"I have to say to Fifa that before they start telling us what to do, they jolly well ought to sort their own house out," May said.