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England v Scotland: Fifa says Poppy ban reports a ‘distortion of facts’

Poppy

England are playing Scotland at Wembley for the first time since August 2013

Fifa says it has not banned the display of poppies by England and Scotland footballers, insisting any such claim is a “distortion of the facts”.

Both England and Scotland asked to wear black armbands bearing a poppy during their World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Friday, which is Armistice Day.

Rules forbid “political” statements on shirts and Fifa says it does not have the power to grant such requests.

Northern Ireland and Wales will wear plain armbands in their fixtures.

England Under-21s wore poppies on black armbands during their win over Italy on Thursday night.

Football’s rules are laid out by the International Football Association Board – which is made up of the four British football associations and Fifa. Any breach of the rules is dealt with by Fifa’s disciplinary committee – which Fifa says is an independent body.

It added it could not pre-judge what symbols would constitute a breach of rules.

World football’s governing body said that when contacted by the four FAs about wearing poppy symbols, it “reminded them about law four” – which states players are not allowed to wear “political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images”.

Fifa says it “reiterated” to the FAs that “only the independent disciplinary committee can decide” if the rules have been broken and what sanction should apply.

“The perception that Fifa ‘banned’ anything is a distortion of the facts,” it added.

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English FA chief executive Martin Glenn has said it will contest any fine. “Fifa have much bigger problems they should be concentrating on,” he said.

“I’m confident our legal position is right and our moral position is right. Our case is absolutely rock solid.”

Northern Ireland – who host Azerbaijan in Belfast on Friday – will wear plain black armbands, as will Wales when they play Serbia on Saturday.

Fans at Cardiff City Stadium will form a poppy mosaic before kick-off.

The Football Association of Wales said it could not risk a financial penalty or point deduction.

Fifa’s secretary general, Fatma Samoura, told BBC Sport last week: “We have to apply uniformly and across the 211 member associations the laws of the game.

“Britain is not the only country that has been suffering from the result of war. The only question is why are we doing exceptions for just one country and not the rest of the world?”

Interim England manager Gareth Southgate described the poppy on Thursday as “part of our identity as a nation”.

“We’re just pleased that we can honour the sacrifice of those who have gone before us,” he added.

Scotland captain Darren Fletcher said: “First and foremost, I think everyone would love to wear the poppy and wants to wear the poppy to show our respect.

“Fifa have their rules and you understand why, but hopefully common sense prevails.”

What could happen next?

The first stage in any disciplinary process that might follow Friday’s game would be for Fifa’s match commissioner at Wembley to include the armbands in the official report.

The case would then go to the disciplinary committee, which would announce its decision a few weeks later. A points deduction is the most serious sanction available but a fine is considered to be more likely.

The British FAs would then have an opportunity to challenge that fine via Fifa’s appeals process and a further chance to appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a course of action that would probably cost more than the fine.