FA announce intention to appeal England poppy fine

Date published: Monday 19th December 2016 6:12

Poppy Row: FA to appeal FIFA fine.

Poppy Row: FA to appeal FIFA fine.

The Football Association intends to appeal after being fined by FIFA following last month’s poppy row, the governing body has confirmed.

The FA was punished, along with its counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for displays of the poppy before or during games to commemorate Armistice Day.

World governing body FIFA considers the poppy to be a political symbol – and therefore banned – and hit the FA with a £35,308 fine.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said last month the organisation would contest a fine if one was imposed, stating its legal case was “absolutely rock solid”.

That has now been followed through with the FA announcing in a statement: “We note the decision by the FIFA disciplinary committee, which we intend to appeal. As a first step, we have written to FIFA requesting the grounds for the decision.”

All the associations will receive the full written verdict of FIFA’s disciplinary committee in due course.

The FA’s fine was the largest of the four imposed on the home nations after England players wore armbands bearing poppies during the November 11 World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Wembley. There were several other incidences of the poppy being displayed around the stadium before the game.

The fine of £15,692 imposed on the Scottish Football Association came after Scotland players also wore poppy armbands.

Both countries wore the armbands – for which there was a precedent set in 2011 for an England match in Spain – despite warnings from FIFA that punishment, including points deductions, could follow.

Wales and Northern Ireland took heed of that warning and instead wore plain black armbands but fines have still followed for other displays of the poppy during games against Serbia and Azerbaijan respectively. These included the wearing of poppies by spectators.

The Football Association of Wales was fined £15,692 and the Irish Football Association £11,769.

During the row in November, it also came to widespread attention that the Republic of Ireland wore shirts commemorating the Easter Rising in a friendly against Switzerland in March. FIFA has now also fined the Football Association of Ireland £3,923.

Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, said: “With these decisions, it is not our intention to judge or question specific commemorations as we fully respect the significance of such moments in the respective countries, each one of them with its own history and background.

“However, keeping in mind that the rules need to be applied in a neutral and fair manner across FIFA’s 211 member associations, the display, among others, of any political or religious symbol is strictly prohibited. In the stadium and on the pitch, there is only room for sport, nothing else.”

The SFA and IFA both issued statements saying they were “disappointed” with the outcome reached by the disciplinary committee but would await written reasons before considering their next actions.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch said: “It is disappointing that FIFA has not recognised the sentiment of the poppy, which is not a political symbol.

“Poppies are a poignant tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of our servicemen and women, and footballers and fans alike should be able to wear them with pride.”

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May also described the FIFA sanctions as “disappointing”.

She added: “FIFA don’t seem to have recognised the sentiment behind poppies – that they are not a political symbol, but are about recognising with pride the role that our brave servicemen and women play.

“We continue to believe that footballers and fans should be able very clearly to show their support for all that our armed forces do.”

Asked whether the UK’s football associations should pay the fines, the spokeswoman said that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was “looking at what happens next”.

Speaking after the fines were announced, the Royal British Legion’s director general, Charles Byrne, said: “We are extremely disappointed that FIFA continues to label the poppy a ‘political symbol’ and has levied fines on those football associations who chose to display it during the 2016 Remembrance period.

“The red poppy is a symbol of Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. It has no political, religious or commercial meaning.

“Of particular concern is FIFA’s reference to spectators wearing a ‘political symbol’. The poppy represents sacrifices made in the defence of freedom, and so the decision to wear it must be a matter of personal choice for both players and spectators.”

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