Belfast Telegraph

IFA give up on poppy fine over £100k court cost

By Jim Gracey

Irish FA chiefs have reluctantly accepted Fifa's £12,000 fine on them over the Remembrance Day Poppy display at Windsor Park after learning it would cost them 10 times more to contest.

Instead, they will seek an urgent meeting with the Fifa President, Gianni Infantino, who attended the recent official opening of the new Windsor stadium, to press their insistence that the poppy is not a political or religious symbol, as deemed and banned by Fifa.

There will be annoyance among aggrieved fans that the association has decided not to fight what many see as a point of principle.

But the will was diluted as the cost implications were spelt out at last night's Windsor Park IFA board meeting.

The plan had been to take their case to the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport.

However, an IFA insider revealed: "It was explained this could cost over £100,000. Reluctantly, it was decided to go down the road of persuasion instead."

Our insider added: “The IFA disagree completely with Fifa’s designation of the poppy as a political or religious symbol and, along with the other home nations, will continue to press that point which, significantly, the European governing body, Uefa, appear to accept.”

Last night’s Irish FA statement said: “The board of the Irish FA wishes to express its severe disappointment that the Fifa disciplinary committee issued the association with a fine and a reprimand for acts of remembrance at the Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan game on Armistice Day.

“In the weeks leading up to the match on November 11, the Irish FA had discussions with Fifa to get guidance on what was permitted within the laws of the game.

“Having followed that guidance in the delivery of the acts of remembrance at the match, it is extremely disappointing that the Fifa disciplinary committee came to the conclusions that it did.

“The Irish FA cannot appeal the 15,000 CHF fine under Fifa regulations and having discussed the options at the board meeting this evening, the association will not pursue any further legal recourse.

“However, the association will write to the President of Fifa to arrange an urgent meeting to seek clarity on this issue going forward.”

Fifa also punished the Republic of Ireland (FAI) with a 5,000 CHF fine (£3,930) after players wore shirts commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising during a friendly against Switzerland earlier this year.

International Football Association Board (IFAB) rules ban “political, religious or personal messages” on kits, while Fifa ground safety regulations say “the promotion or announcement of political or religious messages” in stadiums is “strictly prohibited”.

Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong was critical of Fifa’s response, saying: “I am very disappointed by Fifa's reaction, not just to the IFA, but also the English, Scottish and Welsh FAs.”

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