Home Nations ‘must unite’ over FIFA poppy ban, says DUP MP

Fans formed a poppy mosaic before Northern Ireland's 4-0 win over Azerbaijan on November 11.

Fans formed a poppy mosaic before Northern Ireland's 4-0 win over Azerbaijan on November 11.

The four Home Nations “must stand united” against FIFA’s ban on international players wearing poppies, a DUP MP has said.

The Irish Football Association has announced it will reluctantly accept the fine imposed by FIFA following acts of remembrance at the Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan game on Armistice Day.

The IFA was fined £11,769 by world football’s governing body for displays of the poppy, which FIFA considers a political symbol, during the November 11 match in Belfast.

The IFA cannot go down the appeal route because its fine is exactly 15,000 Swiss Francs and, under FIFA’s disciplinary code, it must be more than that to be contested.

Instead, the IFA is to seek an urgent meeting with FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, to press their case that the poppy is not a political or religious symbol, as deemed by FIFA.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell told the News Letter the four Home Nations would have “a much stronger case” if they stood shoulder to shoulder on the issue.

He added: “I feel that the IFA should approach the other associations and seek to have a joint meeting with Infantino, to put across the strength of feeling on this issue.

“Maybe then FIFA will finally realise that the poppy is something which unites us rather than divides us.”

Of course, the other nations will likely have their own thoughts on how to handle the situation.

As the Football Association, Scottish FA and Football Association of Wales were each fined more than 15,000 Swiss Francs, they are all eligible to lodge an appeal.

The FA has announced it will appeal against FIFA decision, while the SFA and FAW were understood to be waiting for FIFA’s written reasons before deciding what to do.

Responding to Mr Campbell’s suggestion, an IFA spokesman said: “We are open to all options to help solve this issue going forward.”

International Football Association Board (IFAB) rules ban “political, religious or personal messages” on kits, while FIFA ground safety regulations say “the promotion or announcement of political or religious messages” in stadiums is “strictly prohibited”.

FIFA had warned the four countries before November’s internationals that the display of political symbols could result in punishments - a warning which was even debated in the House of Commons at the time.