FIFA to relax rules against commemorating non-sporting events
FIFA has relaxed the rules that ban teams from commemorating non-sporting events at football matches in response to high-profile disputes with British associations over honouring war dead.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were fined by FIFA last year for displaying poppies at World Cup qualifying matches. World football's governing body ruled that poppies flouted regulations banning political, religious or personal symbols on kit and in stadiums, leading to the British nations to push for a change.
Months of talks led to FIFA distributing a circular to member associations on Friday presenting draft proposals that tighten the definition of political symbols and allow commemorations by teams to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
"When commemorating a significant national or international event, the sensibilities of the opposing team [including its supporters] and the general public should be carefully considered," FIFA wrote to members. "Competition rules may contain further restrictions/limitations particularly in relation to the size, number and position of permitted slogans, statements and images. It is recommended that disputes relating to slogans, statements or images are resolved prior to a match/competition taking place."
It was initially reported that the new wording would have to be approved by a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) next month. However, when contacted by ESPN FC on Monday, IFAB released a circular of clarifications to Laws of the Game that would take immediate effect. This is possible because it is only a clarification, which can be approved by IFAB's board of directors, rather than an outright change to the Laws.
The adjustment to the laws of the game states that banned political symbols are linked to:
1.) Living or dead people, unless part of the competition name
2.) Political parties, organisations, groups or government
3.) Organisations deemed discriminatory
4.) Groups whose actions "are likely to offend a notable number of people"
5.) Specific political acts or events
England and Scotland last year wore poppies on their kits for a Wembley Stadium friendly on Nov. 11 -- Armistice Day -- to commemorate British Commonwealth forces who have died on duty since World War I.
The change to the FIFA regulations should allow England to wear poppies without fear of being sanctioned this November. England is planning to play Germany in a friendly at Wembley around Armistice Day, assuming Gareth Southgate's side doesn't have to contest a playoff to qualify for the World Cup. Only opposition from Germany, which is unlikely, would prevent the poppies being displayed at English football's national stadium.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been challenging their FIFA fines for last year's war commemorations. It is unclear if FIFA would drop the sanctions once its law is changed.
ESPN correspondent Leo Spall contributed to this report