English FA criticised over Poppies as FIFA agrees compromise

By staff writers
November 9, 2011

The English FA has been accused of "shamelessly exploiting" the Poppy appeal in its ongoing battle against international football body FIFA.

The Football Association, stung by the failure of England's soccer World Cup bid, and caught up in (widely-shared) concerns about malpractice within the international body, has been pushing hard to get the England team allowed to wear poppies on their shirts during Saturday's match against Spain.

FIFA twice rejected the move, pointing out that it forbids "commercial, religious and political symbols" on shirts - and highlighting the wider precedent the move might make.

But in a compromise move, it will allow the British home nations to have a poppy on black armbands, it was announced tonight.

"The FA wasted no time cynically milking all the publicity they could out of the situation," declared a Eurosport UK commentator this morning.

"Their second request for special dispensation was always going to fail. The FA knew that, but they made it anyway because headlines about nasty, 'anti-English' FIFA are better than headlines about John Terry" [the footballer facing racism enquiries].

The Eurosport article continued: "While ED absolutely supports the Poppy Appeal, it actually thinks FIFA might have got this one right.

"Poppies on football shirts are a relatively new phenomenon - last season was the first time every Premier League club wore one.

"For decades previously, it was perfectly possible for football to honour the country's war dead by other means, such as the laying of wreaths and a minute's silence. Both of these are approved by FIFA and seem like perfectly apt tributes.

"In any case, it's not about FIFA passing judgement on Remembrance Day, but whether it should set a precedent allowing subsequent, more controversial, emblems to appear."

The UK government, the tabloid media and Prince William exerted huge pressure on FIFA to bow to the FA's demands - raising the spectre of "Poppy fascism" and bullying, as raised on several occasions by broadcaster Jon Snow over the imposition of the symbol on TV presenters.

Both sports minister Hugh Robertson and PM David Cameron are stressing that the Poppy is "non-political".

But earlier this week an England football official described it as a symbol of "support for our armed forces" - not simply a way of remembering and honouring the war dead, irrespective of differing views on military force or particular wars.

And the tabloid papers backing the FA's Poppy move have also vigorously attacked as "political" the wearing of white poppies, which originated in 1926 as a symbol of both remembrance and peace.

Last year, a number of Celtic supporters were embroiled in a huge row over their club's embroidering of red poppies on the Glasgow club's shirts, staging a protest against wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the use of British troops in Ireland. They were accused of disrespect and extremism.

"If the poppy is non-political, why have the FA, the government and the press exploited it to bury bad news, score points against FIFA and sell newspapers?", asked Eurosport's 'Early Doors' column this morning (9 November 2011).

* Eurosport: 'FA shamefully exploiting Poppy Appeal' - http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/football/early-doors/article/356270/

* Ekklesia's report: 'Reimagining Remembrance' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/reimagining_remembrance

* Bernadette Meaden: 'Telling the truth on Remembrance Sunday' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/15677


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