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Royal British Legion urges Fifa to lift poppy ban

Published 04/11/2016

The Royal British Legion has written an open letter to Fifa urging it to lift its ban on the England and Scotland national football teams wearing the poppy
The Royal British Legion has written an open letter to Fifa urging it to lift its ban on the England and Scotland national football teams wearing the poppy

The Royal British Legion has written an open letter to Fifa urging it to lift its ban on the England and Scotland national football teams wearing the poppy.

The football associations of both nations have vowed to defy the ban by world football's governing body, saying players will wear poppies on black armbands during their Armistice Day World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

Fifa has insisted that the laws of the game, which prohibit political messages from players' kit, mean poppies cannot be worn at the November 11 fixture.

But in an open letter to Fifa, RBL d irector general Charles Byrne said: " The red poppy is a symbol of remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. It has no political, religious or commercial meaning.

"Since 1921 the Legion has protected the red poppy from political or partisan misuse and ensured it remains a symbol that can be worn with pride by those of all ages, backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs.

"We ask you, Fifa, in the strongest terms, that you rethink your approach to remembrance and the use of the poppy, and permit players to honour the commitment and sacrifices of the Armed Forces."

The move came as Fifa said it was opening disciplinary proceedings against the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) after the team's shirts in a friendly against Switzerland in March bore a symbol representing the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Mr Byrne said the football teams wearing the poppy symbol could spread the message of remembrance to millions.

He also responded to Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura, who said: "Britain is not the only country that has been suffering from the result of war."

"Many nations respect and honour the sacrifices of their armed forces and the red poppy is an international symbol worn around the world," Mr Byrne said.

"Each year 1.5 million poppies are sent to 50 countries worldwide, there are distinct red poppies worn in Canada, Australia and New Zealand for remembrance, and in France they wear the bleuet.

"We can see no reason why this simple symbol cannot be worn by players at international football matches, should they choose to."

The row has escalated in recent days, with Prime Minister Theresa May calling the ban "utterly outrageous".

Both the English and Scottish FAs have said they do not believe the poppy to be a political or religious symbol and suggested that a 2011 compromise which allowed them to be displayed on armbands does not break Fifa rules.

It is feared England and Scotland risk a potential points deduction by opting to wear the armbands.

A petition set up by former RAF pilot and prisoner of war John Nichol on change.org, urging Fifa to change its mind, has garnered more than 300,000 signatures.

Press Association

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