Belfast Telegraph

IFA U-turn on poppy ban for Northern Ireland fans team shirts

By Jonny Bell

Northern Ireland football team shirts, bearing the poppy, are to be made available for the Green and White Army to buy following their temporary withdrawal from sale.

The IFA said it instructed official retailer JD Sports to withdraw the shirts from sale, the Stephen Nolan show reported at 9am on Thursday.

The home shirt featured a poppy to commemorate those who "gave their lives to their country," according to the advertising literature.

IFA officials told the Nolan show they were "concerned" with the language used. An IFA spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph they were concerned as they had no been consulted over the sale of the shirt.

The shirt had been listed as Nike manufactured when in fact it is Adidas made.

The IFA also sought confirmation a donation was to be made to the Royal British Legion, which the retailer did confirm.

The shirts featuring the symbol were no longer available on the JD Sports website.

However, the shirt will return to sale by the afternoon - the IFA said at around 9.15am on Thursday.

In a statement to the Nolan show, the IFA said: "The decision to sell the Northern Ireland shirts with the poppy was one made by JD Sports which is the Irish FA's retail partner. They are selling Wales and Scotland shirts with poppies on them too.

"When we were made aware of the sale of the shirts we asked JD if all profits from the sale go to the Royal British Legion (RBL).

"They have agreed to that request and the shirt will be back on sale later this morning with the new charitable donation element made clear."

This comes after the IFA said poppies would not be worn during the Armistice Day game against Azerbaijan by the players.

The team will wear black armbands instead.

Prior to kick-off a minute's silence will be held and names of players connected with the association who died during World War One will be shown on the big screen.

Fifa said it "could give no guarantee" that there would not be disciplinary proceedings if the Northern Ireland team was to wear a symbol of remembrance on the playing shirt.

Fifa rules state players' equipment should not carry commercial, personal, political or religious messages.

Scotland and England have defied Fifa saying their players will wear the symbol on black armbands, as they have done in the past, for their upcoming Wembley clash.

On Thursday morning, their shirts, along with that of Wales remained on sale on JD Sports website.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the IFA said: "The decision to sell a Northern Ireland shirt with a poppy on it was one made by JD Sports, who are the Irish FA’s official retail partner.

"They are also selling Wales and Scotland shirts with a poppy on them too.

"When the Irish FA was made aware of the sale, it asked JD Sports if all profits from the sale of the commemorative shirts could go to the British Legion."

JD Sports confirmed to the IFA a donation would go to the RBL.

The IFA statement continued: "There were also inaccuracies in the listings on the JD Sports website around the kit brand [the Adidas strip was listed as Nike].

"The shirt will be back on sale later this morning with the correct listing and the new charitable element made clear."

Sales of the shirt resumed on Thursday afternoon.

A JD Sports spokeswoman added: "In commemoration of Armistice Day and ahead of the international fixtures this weekend we have produced a number of limited edition Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland home football shirts printed with a poppy on the front.   All profits from the sale of these shirts will go to the Royal British Legion.”

Prior to the withdrawal of the shirt from sale, IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "The Irish FA is committed to marking Armistice Day with appropriate acts of remembrance.

"We asked Fifa if permission could be granted for the Northern Ireland team to wear a poppy on the shirt or on an armband.

"As a member of the IFAB, we have placed clarification of the law 4.4 on the agenda for the next annual general meeting of the International Football Association Board, which will be held in London in March."

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