FIFA ban is just poppycock – and FA should ignore it

SHAME on FIFA for banning England from wearing poppies on their shirts at Wembley on Saturday.

And shame on the Football Association if they do as they have been told. FIFA’s reasoning for kicking out the FA’s request for special dispensation?

It’s against a regulation that states that players’ equipment “should not carry any political, religious or commercial messages”.

What an absolute disgrace and what an insult to the memory of the veterans who served and died in conflict and the current members of the British Armed Forces in whose name the Poppy Appeal is conducted each year by the Royal British Legion, whose motto is “Service Not Self”.

And this from a discredited organisation which, despite the protestations of its autocratic president Sepp Blatter, has been riddled with corruption and is only just starting to make rather half-hearted attempts to clean up its act.

FIFA rule makers might think they have the authority to tell the English FA what players can or cannot wear on their shirts but, morally, they have no right.

Do they have any idea of the significance of the poppy? We’re not talking here about a blatant commercial or a political statement – “Dine at Joe’s Cafe” or “Up the Revolution”.

The poppy is a tribute to the servicemen and women who have served their country, fighting and dying in the name of freedom. And it is not a sentiment exclusive to Britain.

Many of the leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful nations wore poppies at last week’s G20 summit in Cannes – just as news was breaking that football’s world governing body was saying no to the FA’s request for their players to do likewise in Saturday’s friendly against Spain to mark Remembrance weekend.

What a scandal.

I doubt that they will do it, but the FA should ignore the edict and go ahead with their poppy plan regardless.

In fact, I would happily volunteer to stitch them on myself if that’s what it takes.

What sanctions would we face?

FIFA might have the power to expel any association that defies its orders, but Blatter wouldn’t dare.

And any fine they imposed would be worth paying on such a point of principle.

Rules, as they say, are made to be broken and although defying authority might go against the grain with the service personnel – both former and current – who have been so outraged by FIFA’s intransigence, this is a case where the FA should not merely stand up for what is right, they should be proud to do so.

Anything less would be a slap in the face for the British Legion and those of us who hold this weekend so special.

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