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'Spineless' IFA urged to defy poppy rule on Northern Ireland team shirts

By Luke Barnes

Published 10/11/2016

David McNarry
David McNarry

The Irish Football Association has been branded "gutless" for not having the Northern Ireland side wear poppies to mark Armistice Day.

Michael O'Neill's team play Azerbaijan tomorrow night in a World Cup qualifying match. Players will wear black armbands instead.

Prior to kick-off a minute's silence will be held and names of players connected with the association who died during World War One will be shown on the big screen.

The decision was made after discussions between the IFA and football world governing body Fifa.

Fifa said it "could give no guarantee that there would not be disciplinary proceedings if the Northern Ireland team was to wear a symbol of remembrance on the playing shirt".

Fifa rules state players' equipment should not carry commercial, personal, political or religious messages.

The IFA's decision was met with scorn on social media by some supporters.

And local Ukip leader David McNarry said: "Northern Ireland fans will recoil with justifiable anger in response to the spineless decision to ditch the poppy and wear black armbands.

"What would have been the outcome if those who made the supreme sacrifice had worried about sanctions? England and Scotland have stuck by their principles and their fans.

"The IFA has lost its backbone. This gutless stance does not represent the fans' position."

Mr McNarry urged the IFA to do a U-turn on its "outrageous" decision.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that while some of the IFA's planned commemorations were appropriate and dignified, it would have been preferable if it had stuck by its English and Scottish counterparts.

He added that there was a certain irony in Fifa lecturing organisations on conduct bearing in mind its recent history of corruption.

He also brushed aside claims the poppy could be seen as a precedent for more nationalistic symbols.

He said: "The uniqueness of the poppy is fairly well-known.

"I don't think anyone can use it as some form of precedent."

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "The Irish FA is committed to marking Armistice Day with appropriate acts of remembrance.

"We asked Fifa if permission could be granted for the Northern Ireland team to wear a poppy on the shirt or on an armband.

"As a member of the IFAB, we have placed clarification of the law 4.4 on the agenda for the next annual general meeting of the International Football Association Board, which will be held in London in March."

Both England and Scotland will wear armbands with a poppy on it in their qualifying clash tomorrow night.

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