Belfast Telegraph

Fifa may punish FAI over Rising symbol on team's shirts

By Staff Reporter

Fifa has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) over an Easter Rising symbol on the team's shirts.

The Republic player's jerseys bore the symbol to mark the 100th anniversary of the rebellion during a match against Switzerland on March 25.

The development follows the English and Scottish football associations' decision to press ahead with plans to commemorate Armistice Day by allowing players to wear black armbands embroidered with a poppy during the World Cup qualifier next Friday, November 11.

The Irish FA is also expected to be told that Northern Ireland players cannot wear poppies against Azerbaijan in a match played on the same night.

Fifa has stated that the symbol would breach its rules regarding political, religious or commercial messages being carried on players' equipment.

A statement from Fifa in relation to the Easter Rising symbol read: "We can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened on this matter. Please understand we cannot comment further at this stage nor speculate on any outcome."

The Easter Rising took place in April 1916, with a group of around 1,000 rebels who sought an independent Irish Republic rising up to challenge the British Government. Fifteen of them were later executed.

It is unclear what the sanction would be for the FAI if it was found to have breached Fifa's laws, or what sanction would be imposed on the FA or Scottish Football Association (SFA) if they press ahead with their plans.

The FA and SFA insist the poppy is a symbol of remembrance and respect and should not be regarded as political.

The Royal British Legion (RBL) has called on Fifa to reconsider its position.

RBL director 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."

Fifa stated its position in a statement released on Thursday, which read: "Fifa fully respects the significance of commemorating Remembrance Day on November 11 each year.

"The Laws of the game are overseen by the International Football Association Board (composed of the four British FAs and Fifa) and (are) applicable to all 211 member associations. The relevant Law 4, para. 4, clearly states that the players equipment should not carry any political, religious or commercial messages.

"The laws are applied uniformly in the event of similar requests by any member association to commemorate similar historic events".

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