Fifa fines home nations over poppies

England team poppy

Fifa has fined all four home nations for displaying poppies during World Cup qualifiers around Armistice Day.

England and Scotland players wore armbands featuring the symbol when they met at Wembley on 11 November.

Wales and Northern Ireland’s respective games featured displays on the pitch or in the stands to mark the event.

England have been fined 45,000 Swiss francs (£35,311), Scotland and Wales 20,000 Sfr (£15,694) and Northern Ireland 15,000 Sfr (£11,770).

Fifa disciplinary committee chairman Claudio Sulser said he “fully respected” the commemorations but stressed the rules “need to be applied to all member associations”.

“The display, among others, of any political or religious symbol is strictly prohibited,” he added.

“In the stadium and on the pitch, there is only room for sport, nothing else.”

Why have the countries been punished?

Wales v Serbia poppies<!–

According to the rule-making International Football Association Board (IFAB), players cannot wear “political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images”.

But both England and Scotland players wore armbands featuring the poppy symbol during England’s 3-0 win.

There was also a display of poppies on big screens, a minute’s silence, playing of the Last Post and poppy T-shirts handed to the crowd.

Following Wales’ 1-1 draw at home to Serbia the next day, Fifa opened disciplinary proceedings looking at “fans in the stands wearing the poppy” and the presence of “a member of the armed forces holding a bunch of poppies at the exit of the tunnel”, according to the Football Association of Wales (FAW).

The holding of a minute’s silence, the laying of a wreath and a poppy display by fans before Northern Ireland’s 4-0 win over Azerbaijan on 11 November have led to the punishment of the Irish FA.

Fifa has also punished the Republic of Ireland with a 5,000 Sfr fine (£3,930) after its players wore shirts commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising earlier this year.

How have the home nations responded?

Both the FA and FAW have yet to respond but Scottish FA (SFA) chief executive Stewart Regan says it is “clearly disappointing” that Fifa has ruled the poppy is a political symbol.

The SFA board will discuss the issue on Tuesday to decide on any appeal and will request the full reasons from Fifa.

It also plans to discuss the issue with the FA, FAW and Irish FA in the coming days.

The Irish FA said it was “disappointed”, adding it “will take further legal advice before deciding on a future course of action”.

How did we get here?

In 2011, Fifa agreed that the England, Scotland and Wales teams could wear poppies on black armbands during November internationals.

England wore them during their 1-0 friendly win over Spain at Wembley, Scotland did so in a match against Cyprus and Wales wore them against Norway.

However, this year, under new president Gianni Infantino, Fifa indicated they could punish teams for breaking the rule before the November matches.

That led to UK Prime Minister Theresa May calling Fifa’s stance “outrageous”,” adding that it would be “absolutely right” for players to wear poppies.

A points deduction was also a possible punishment open to Fifa.


Chief football writer Phil McNulty

The fines imposed by Fifa on the four home nations for displaying poppies during World Cup qualifiers around Armistice Day will have been expected but still a serious disappointment.

They will regard Fifa’s treatment of the matter as heavy-handed – although Fifa will also believe it is sticking firmly to a clear letter of the law. The respective FAs will also feel the fines, no matter how frustrating, are a price worth paying for what was regarded as a matter of principle and a tribute that had to be paid.

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