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England and Scotland urge FIFA to relax war tribute stance

Update: November, 03/2016 - 11:00
The English and Scottish football associations had been negotiating with the world governing body, which bans political, commercial and religious symbols on team outfits during matches. — Photo yimg.com
Viet Nam News

LONDON — England and Scotland have urged FIFA to "give the people what they want" by getting the global governing body to drop its opposition to players wearing poppies on Armistice Day.

England play Scotland in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on November 11, the day when the United Kingdom traditionally remembers its war dead.

Under FIFA rules, players are not allowed to wear poppies on their shirts during the game because it would be a political statement.

In 2011, FIFA agreed to let England wear a poppy symbol on black armbands when they played Spain in a friendly.

But Stewart Regan, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, said on Tuesday that a request for England and Scotland to do likewise later this month had been turned down by FIFA officials "sticking to the letter of the law".

Meanwhile the Football Association of Wales are also seeking FIFA clearance for their players to display the poppy symbol on their shirts when they face Serbia in Cardiff on November 12.

All the national associations are keen to know in advance what punishments they may face if they go ahead with a poppy tribute without getting agreement from FIFA, amid fears they could be docked valuable World Cup qualifying points.

Regan said he and English FA counterpart Martin Glenn planned to meet FIFA officials on Thursday, although a FIFA source forecast that the matter could be resolved as soon as Wednesday.

"We will be asking for their support to try to give the people of England and Scotland what they want," Regan told BBC radio. "That is to use this match as a way of remembering people who lost their lives in the war.

"I can understand why they are doing this, but it is nothing more than a mark of respect. It is a personal choice. This is not about making some political point."

’In touch’

Earlier, a FIFA spokesperson indicated to AFP that talks were ongoing by saying: "FIFA is in touch with the English FA on this matter."

The English FA said: "We are working closely with the Royal British Legion (a charity for ex-servicemen for whom the annual poppy appeal is its major fundraiser) once again this year to honour and remember the sacrifices made by those serving in the armed forces.

"In recent weeks, the FA has led remembrance discussions with FIFA to allow the England team to show its support for the poppy appeal during the World Cup qualifier with Scotland."

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters at the House of Commons: "FIFA and the FA are talking about it at the moment."

England and Scotland are in the same group aiming to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals. But the Wembley game comes on a particularly emotive date.

November 11 is the day world allies signed an armistice with Germany to end World War I in 1918. In Britain it is used as the day to remember all war dead.

"We see no reason why the poppy should be banned from players’ shirts as it is not a political symbol," said a Legion spokesperson. — AFP

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