Dismayed Prince William helps win poppy battle with FIFA
Published 17:20 09/11/11 By Greig Box Turnbull
It was a battle he was determined to win – and Prince William didn’t pull any punches in a furious letter to Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
The prince was said to be “absolutely livid” that football’s governing body had banned England’s footballers from wearing remembrance poppies for Saturday’s friendly against Spain.
In his role as president of the FA he fired off a “strongly worded” protest calling for the decision to be reversed.
Disgusted PM David Cameron did the same.
And last night, within an hour of news of the letters becoming public, Fifa backed down.
Now the England team WILL be allowed to wear the poppies on black armbands for the game.
St James’s Palace said the prince – who will take part in the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph this weekend – was “happy at the victory for common sense”.
A source added: “As a serving officer in the Armed Forces, who has lost friends and ancestors to conflict, William was particularly angered by the ban.”
Mr Cameron also welcomed Fifa’s change of heart. He said: “It’s a sensible way forward.”
Initially, Fifa insisted the poppies would breach their ban on “political, religious or commercial messages”.
And they rejected a plan to have the emblem sewn on to the England players’ shirts, claiming it would “jeopardise the neutrality of foootball”. Now, following the angry protests from Prince William and Mr Cameron, they have relented and agreed to it being worn on the players’ armbands as a compromise.
A Royal British Legion spokesman said: “We’re delighted that England players will be able to wear their poppy with pride. There are other ways of honouring the poppy than by wearing it on your shirt – the armband will do nicely.
“Now everyone can concentrate on enjoying the game.”
Earlier, before Fifa’s U-turn, Mr Cameron told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions: “We all wear the poppy with pride, even if we don’t approve of the wars people were fighting in to honour the fact that these people sacrificed their lives for us.
“It is absolutely vital for Fifa to understand that – and I think a clear message going out of this House and from this Government can make them think again.”
FA officials have arranged for a two-minute silence during the England players’ training session tomorrow and a minute’s silence before Saturday’s international. A poppy wreath will be laid by the Armed Forces and young mascots.
An FA spokesman said last night: “We can confirm that Fifa has today agreed that the England players will now be permitted to wear a poppy on their black armbands and it will be visible throughout the game.”
England midfielder Jack Wilshere wrote on Twitter: “My great granddad fought for this country in WW2 and I’m sure a lot of other people’s grandparents did. England should wear poppies on Saturday. It’s the nation’s tradition and it would be disrespectful not to.”