England and Scotland likely to challenge Fifa on poppy disciplinary action

• Fifa opened proceedings on Thursday, alleging rules breached
• English and Scottish FAs both considering their responses

The English and Scottish football associations are expected to challenge likely disciplinary action by the game’s world governing body, Fifa, over the pre-match remembrance ceremonies and wearing of poppies when the two countries’ national teams played each other on 11 November.

Fifa’s disciplinary committee opened proceedings on Thursday, telling both FAs that they may have breached football’s law that prohibits the wearing of political messages on players’ kit, when they displayed a poppy embroidered into an armband on the teams’ sleeves. A Fifa spokesperson said other regulations, understood also to concern non-politicisation of football matches, may have been breached by the “non-approved pre-match ceremony” to mark the signing of the armistice, the display of flags with poppies by members of the armed forces and fans, showing the poppy on the Wembley big screens and placing t-shirts with poppies on supporters’ seats.

Charges are also being considered in relation to “several cases of fan misconduct,” understood to have been reported by the match observer – the president of the Welsh FA, Dai Griffiths – including the booing of the national anthems and some missiles being thrown on to the pitch.

Football rules are made and overseen by the International Football Association Board, a historic body that comprises the four British FAs, and Fifa. It has from the beginning of international football sought to maintain matches as sporting contests, and separate them from politics and military conflicts between countries. That stance was zealously pursued by the English Fifa president, Sir Stanley Rous, throughout his tenure from 1961 to 1974. When explaining the stance on poppies earlier this month, Fifa, which has 211 member countries worldwide, said: “The laws are applied uniformly in the event of similar requests by any member association to commemorate similar historic events.”

Neither the English nor Scottish FA accepts that the poppy is political, arguing that although it clearly relates to war, it is only a symbol of remembering the people who died. Both are expected to argue that case to the Fifa disciplinary committee, which is due to hear the case on 9 December. The most likely sanction is a fine, if the committee considers rules to have been breached. Any disciplinary finding and sanction could be challenged, ultimately to the court of arbitration for sport. The FAs’ statements before the match – which ended in a 3-0 victory for England – suggested they would be prepared to pursue.

The English FA limited its response to the letter, only confirming that it has received it and is “considering our response”. The Scottish FA said in a statement: “We will consider the contents of the complaint and respond in advance of the meeting.”


David Conn

The GuardianTramp

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