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Fifa make IFA wait a week for Poppy fine

Windsor chiefs will learn fate in lead up to Christmas

By Paul Ferguson

Fifa are set to ruin the Irish FA's Christmas by announcing their punishment for commemorating Armistice Day in the week leading up to December 25.

The Belfast Telegraph understands the Irish FA have been found guilty of breaking rule 4.4 which concerns political, religious or commercial messages at football matches.

A three-man disciplinary committee, consisting of former Switzerland international Claudio Sulser, USA representative Mike Edwards and Tunisia delegate Mahmoud Hammami, met in Zurich last Friday to discuss the charge levelled against the Irish FA - that on November 11 at Windsor Park, ahead of the World Cup qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan, there were 'several incidents involving the display of poppy symbols'.

Windsor Park chiefs fully expected to receive notification of a fine and reprimand from Fifa yesterday, as usual standard practice dictates that the outcome of a disciplinary committee is communicated to the relevant associations and clubs within one business day.

However, Fifa have informed the Belfast Telegraph that while a decision has been made, the Irish FA, who faced similar charges to their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales, will not be told the outcome until Monday, December 19 at the earliest.

A Fifa spokesperson said: "We can confirm that the cases of The FA, the Scottish FA, the Wales FA and the Irish FA were on the agenda of the last Disciplinary Committee meeting. Please note that the decisions of the Disciplinary Committee will be communicated in due course; the earliest they can be expected is during the week starting December 19."

It is anticipated Northern Ireland and Wales, who were playing at home to Serbia on the same evening, will be given a lenient fine, but England and Scotland, who wore poppies on their actual shirts during the World Cup qualifier at Wembley, could receive a hefty bill, and there is even the possibility of a points deduction hovering over them.

The Irish FA had hoped, just like England and Scotland, to wear a poppy on their shirts during the game, but after IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson had consultations with Fifa, it was decided on a different form of remembrance.

On the night, the players wore black armbands, there was a minute's silence before kick-off, a wreath was laid by members of the Royal British Legion, a poppy mosaic was displayed by fans in the Kop and, in a touching tribute, the names of players connected with the Association who died during the First World War were also displayed on the big screen.

It was considered a thoughtful and respectful tribute by the Irish FA, and therefore those in power at Windsor Park were shocked to receive news that disciplinary proceedings had been started against them.

The Irish FA immediately responded to the threat of disciplinary action by insisting they would robustly defend themselves against all charges. But until they receive official confirmation from Fifa of their actual fine and warning, they have decided not to make any comment.

A board meeting at Windsor Park tonight was expected to discuss the issue and the possibility of appealing the punishment, but that will now be put on the January agenda.

It is understood Fifa have decided to delay releasing the punishment to the relevant associations for over a week so as to allow their lawyers time to go through their official statement with a fine toothcomb - due to the poppy issue being extremely sensitive.

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