FIFA and the home country Member Associations of England, Scotland and Wales have reached an impasse regarding Law 4, The Player’s Equipment part 4, Other Equipment. In a nutshell the Associations want their players to wear black armbands with a red poppy emblem on them during World Cup qualifier matches to be played this month. England play Scotland at Wembley on 11th November which just happens to be Armistice Day, the commemoration of the end of the First World War. The poppy is a traditional symbol of remembrance in recognition of those who gave their lives in all conflicts.
In 2011 FIFA agreed that players could wear the same armbands. Indeed it was instrumental in deciding that this mark of respect was appropriate. The Law has not changed since then. It states that ‘Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images’. In 2011 FIFA decided that the poppy symbol did not infringe this law. Clearly they decided then that the poppy was not a political, religious or personal slogan. I would agree and I think most sensible people would.
The FIFA of 2016 is very different to the FIFA of 2011. The transformation has been remarkable and positive. It is now much more transparent, effective and inclusive. So I am perplexed and disappointed that they have taken this stance. I just don’t seem why it is necessary to even get involved. FIFA is very busy rebuilding its reputation and I am sure has more important issues to deal with.
It appears that both England and Scotland are going to defy FIFA and wear the armbands anyway, content to take any punishment that FIFA might apply – and the General Secretary has hinted that sanctions may apply. At the time of writing, Wales is yet to decide.
As we all know the world is an unstable and war-torn place right now. Football has a role to play in bringing people together and promoting harmony. This is an opportunity for FIFA to demonstrate compassion. Surely they should be endorsing and promoting the remembrance of the fallen rather than considering the imposition of draconian measures in direct contradiction of its own previous decisions?
Let’s just hope that in the end common sense prevails. Knowing a little about the ‘new’ FIFA, I am sure it will.