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Fifa’s poppy stance ‘utterly outrageous’

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Prime Minister Theresa May says Fifa’s apparent refusal to allow England and Scotland players to wear armbands featuring poppies is “outrageous”.

The two teams will meet at Wembley on 11 November, the day when the United Kingdom remembers its war dead.

World governing body Fifa reiterated its ban on political, religious or commercial messages on shirts.

“Before they start telling us what to do, they jolly well ought to sort their own house out,” said Mrs May.

“Our football players want to recognise and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security – I think it is absolutely right they should be able to do so.”

Fifa has been plagued by corruption allegations in recent years.

Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign as president ended in December, when he was suspended for eight years from all football-related activities following an ethics investigation. His ban was later reduced to six years.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May said the wearing of poppies was a matter for the English and Scottish Football Associations to resolve, but there was a “clear message” from the House of Commons that “we want our players to be able to wear those poppies”.

‘There will be poppies at Wembley’

FA chairman Greg Clarke told ITV news that England’s football governing body was “negotiating in good faith with Fifa to try and find a solution”.

“My personal opinion, and as that of chair of the FA, is that of course we should wear poppies,” said Clarke. “We are commemorating millions of people who gave their lives in wars over the years. They, and the people who lost relatives, deserve that. That is our plan.

“We are balancing respect for the fallen and their families with respect for the governing body.

“There will be poppies at Wembley.”

‘England should risk points deduction’

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) said on Tuesday that Fifa had turned down a request from England and Scotland for players to wear armbands in next Friday’s World Cup qualifier.

The two football associations hope to change Fifa’s mind, and want to know what the potential punishments could be should they flout the rule.

Former Culture, Media and Sport Secretary John Whittingdale MP says the England team should wear poppies – even if a points deduction is possible.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live’s Emma Barnett, he said: “For [Fifa] to try and brand the poppy as a political symbol shows a total misunderstanding. I think there are a number of reasons why we are already profoundly unhappy with Fifa’s behaviour and conduct and this adds to that list.”

Fifa has not indicated whether a points penalty would be under consideration as a potential punishment.

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Tuesday’s Sun led with the story

‘Fifa should overturn this bizarre decision’

The Football Association of Wales has also written to Fifa requesting permission to wear poppies on armbands during their game against Serbia in Cardiff on 12 November.

A motion has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament calling for the ban to be scrapped.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said: “It’s obvious for all to see that wearing a poppy to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice is not a political statement.

“Fifa should overturn this bizarre decision immediately. The fans, players and football associations on both sides of the border want to be able to wear the poppy with pride.

“I hope MSPs across all parties back this motion and call for an urgent rethink.”

England are top of their 2018 World Cup qualifying group with seven points from three games. Scotland are fourth with four points.

The top team qualifies automatically for the finals in Russia, with the second-placed side possibly entering a play-off.

Wales are third in Group D, behind Serbia and the Republic of Ireland.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37848413