A war hero MLA last night slammed Uefa for “enforcing stupid rules” by ordering an Irish League club to cover up a memorial to players who gave their lives during the First World War.
Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie condemned the edict from European football’s governing body to Glenavon FC.
Fifteen players from the Lurgan Blues are commemorated on the memorial at the club’s Mourneview Park stadium.
But the ruling means the club will have to erect a temporary screen around the memorial, hiding it from public view while Uefa tournament matches are being played at the venue.
The MLA — awarded the Military Cross for bravery during his service in Afghanistan — hit out at the bureaucrats.
“I think it is a sad day when a nation cannot remember its dead with dignity and in keeping with its country’s traditions,” the Upper Bann MLA said.
“Uefa should be mindful that their freedom to run an all-encompassing football competition and promote a fine sporting event was built on the shoulders of men and women who gave their lives so that the likes of Uefa can have that freedom.
“Instead of spending their time enforcing stupid rules that encroach on a country’s ability to remember their past and the sacrifice of their people, they should instead focus on the eradication of the sectarianism and racism that still blights the beautiful game in too many parts of Europe.
“Glenavon Football Club should not be made to hide their Mourneview Park memorial to our fallen.
“Instead, they should be encouraged to remember those that gave their lives for freedom in the same way as all the nations of Europe should be allowed and encouraged to promote remembrance.
“Rules like this merely add weight to the argument that Uefa has become an out-of-touch organisation, seriously lacking in common sense.”
The 2017 Uefa Women’s Under-19 tournament comes to Northern Ireland next week. Last night Glenavon-supporting DUP MLA Carla Lockhart also said that Uefa needed to take “a long, hard look” at its ban on displaying poppies at sporting events.
She said: “This story is one that once again has highlighted the sheer misunderstanding that Uefa have around the meaning and significance of the remembrance poppy and its symbolism for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“This memorial is to commemorate the brave men who were players in Glenavon at the time of the Great War and who laid down their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.”
She accused Uefa of “trampling over the emblem we all use to commemorate the bravest, most courageous men and women from all sections of all communities who have died while serving in World Wars and more recent conflicts”.
The DUP MLA has written to Uefa senior officials on the issue, calling on them to rethink the policy, to educate and acquaint themselves with the history and the neutrality of the poppy emblem.
Glenavon FC could not be reached for comment last night.