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UUP's Allen brands Fifa's £11k poppy fines a 'disgrace'

By Allan Preston

A fine for wearing poppies issued against the Irish Football Association has been branded a "disgrace".

The international football governing body Fifa has levied the fines on the IFA and its counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales.

The English Association was ordered to pay the largest sum of 45,000 Swiss Francs (£35,350) after players wore poppies on armbands during a match against Scotland.

Both Scotland and Wales' Football Associations were fined 20,000 Swiss Francs (£15,711).

After Northern Ireland players wore armbands with poppies for their international against Azjerbajan in Windsor Park on November 11, Fifa ordered the IFA to pay 15,000 Swiss Francs (£11,783).

The Republic of Ireland was also fined 5,000 Swiss Francs (£3,929) for displaying a symbol on its shirts to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising for a match against Switzerland.

Former soldier and now UUP MLA Andy Allen called the decision "an absolute disgrace."

"A democratic system where you have a fine imposed upon you, but you do not have the right of appeal, it's disgraceful," he said.

"I hope, should it come round again next year, the IFA will again do what is right and have an act of remembrance.

"For me, the poppy is not a commercial, religious or political symbol. For them to state otherwise flies in the face in the consultation the IFA had with Fifa to try and get the right balance.

"When they tried to respect their decision and not wear a poppy on their shirts, they get slapped in the face.

"Armed forces stand up and direct the rights of people. For them to embroil the poppy in this political argument is totally wrong and they need to rethink their decision."

The IFA had originally hoped players could wear poppies on their shirts during the game, but after consulting with Fifa decided on a different tribute.

As well as the black armbands for players, a minute's silence was held before kick-off, members of the Royal British Legion laid a wreath and hundreds of fans in the Kop stand displayed a large poppy mosaic.

In a statement, the IFA said it was "disappointed that the Fifa disciplinary committee has reprimanded the association and issued a fine in relation to acts of remembrance at the Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan match on 11th November."

"The Irish FA will examine the full written submission when it is released and will take further legal advice before deciding on a future course of action."

In a further development, it is now understood that the IFA will not be given the option of appealing Fifa's decision.

Claudio Sulser from Fifa's disciplinary committee said there was no intention to "judge or question specific commemorations".

"We fully respect the significance of such moments in the respective countries, each one of them with its own history and background," he said.

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

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