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FIFA fines English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs for poppies

England and Scotland players wore armbands featuring poppies during the teams' World Cup qualifier last month.

The English Football Association has been fined 45,000 Swiss francs (£35,308) by FIFA for the display of poppies during the Nov. 11 World Cup qualifier against Scotland, while the other home nations were also fined for similar offences.

The FA later announced its intention to appeal to FIFA, which considers the poppy to be a political symbol, and therefore banned.

The Scottish Football Association and the Football Association of Wales have each been fined 20,000 Swiss francs (£15,692) and the Irish Football Association 15,000 Swiss francs (£11,769) for similar offences.

The Football Association of Ireland was also fined 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,923) after Republic of Ireland wore shirts commemorating the Easter Rising in March.

England and Scotland players wore armbands displaying poppies during their World Cup qualifier at Wembley. A number of other Armistice Day tributes also took place prior to the match.

FIFA had warned the associations the displaying of political symbols could be punishable ahead of the game but the FA and SFA both went ahead with plans for players to wear poppies.

"We note the decision by the FIFA disciplinary committee, which we intend to appeal," an FA statement read. "As a first step, we have written to FIFA requesting the grounds for the decision."

The FAW and IFA, for Wales and Northern Ireland matches against Serbia and Azerbaijan respectively, decided on plain black armbands for players but were still punished for displays of the poppy around the stadium. These included the wearing of poppies by players.

A statement from FIFA read: "England has been fined CHF 45,000 for several incidents in the framework of the England v Scotland match, including the display by the host association, the English team and spectators of a political symbol and several cases of spectator misconduct.

"Scotland, as the visiting association, has been fined CHF 20,000 for the display of the same political symbol and cases of misconduct committed by its own group of spectators.

"Wales has been fined CHF 20,000 and Northern Ireland CHF 15,000 in relation to several incidents, including the display of political symbols in the context of the Wales v Serbia and Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan matches."

FIFA bans political symbols and has made clear it considers the poppy to be one. The home associations argued it is no such thing.

Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, said: "With these decisions, it is not our intention to judge or question specific commemorations as we fully respect the significance of such moments in the respective countries, each one of them with its own history and background.

"However, keeping in mind that the rules need to be applied in a neutral and fair manner across FIFA's 211 member associations, the display, among others, of any political or religious symbol is strictly prohibited. In the stadium and on the pitch, there is only room for sport, nothing else."

The associations are now awaiting the full written verdicts from FIFA. The Northern Irish governing body says it will seek legal advice before considering its response.

Labour sports spokeswoman Rosena Allin-Khan described the fines as "utterly disrespectful."

"FIFA have been embroiled in a corruption scandal, which has seen tens of millions of pounds in bribes paid out under their watch," Allin-Khan said. "Rather than fining UK teams for wearing poppies, FIFA should be concentrating on getting their own house in order."

Sports minister Tracey Crouch said: "It is disappointing that FIFA has not recognised the sentiment of the poppy, which is not a political symbol.

"Poppies are a poignant tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of our servicemen and women, and footballers and fans alike should be able to wear them with pride."

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May also described the FIFA sanctions as "disappointing".

She added: "FIFA don't seem to have recognised the sentiment behind poppies -- that they are not a political symbol, but are about recognising with pride the role that our brave servicemen and women play.

"We continue to believe that footballers and fans should be able very clearly to show their support for all that our armed forces do."

Asked whether the UK's football associations should pay the fines, the spokeswoman said that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was "looking at what happens next".

Speaking after the fines were announced, the Royal British Legion's director general, Charles Byrne, said: "We are extremely disappointed that FIFA continues to label the poppy a 'political symbol' and has levied fines on those football associations who chose to display it during the 2016 Remembrance period.

"The red poppy is a symbol of Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. It has no political, religious or commercial meaning.

"Of particular concern is FIFA's reference to spectators wearing a 'political symbol'. The poppy represents sacrifices made in the defence of freedom, and so the decision to wear it must be a matter of personal choice for both players and spectators."


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