PM: Poppy ban is 'outrageous'
Published 09:17 09/11/11 By MirrorFootball
David Cameron has condemned the ban on England's players wearing poppies on their kit as "outrageous".
The Prime Minister called for FIFA to reverse the "absurd" decision that is stopping the team having the remembrance symbol embroidered on their shirts for this Saturday's friendly against Spain at Wembley.
He stepped in amid growing fury after it emerged that officials turned down the special request, made by the Football Association, claiming it would "open the door to similar initiatives" across the world.
Mr Cameron said: "This seems outrageous. The idea that wearing a poppy to remember those who have given their lives for our freedom is a political act is absurd.
"Wearing a poppy is an act of huge respect and national pride.
"I hope FIFA will reconsider."
A letter from FIFA to the FA sent yesterday said: "We regret to inform you that accepting such initiatives would open the door to similar initiatives from all over the world, jeopardising the neutrality of football. Therefore, we confirm herewith that the suggested embroidery on the match shirt cannot be authorised.
"There are a variety of options where The FA can continue supporting the cause of Remembrance. One of them already was approved by FIFA, the Period of Silence."
FIFA have allowed a minute's silence to be held before the sell-out game, for the England players to wear poppies on their training kit at Wembley on Friday, and to stand for the traditional two minutes' silence also on Friday.
FIFA's rules prevent anything of a political nature being worn on shirts and although the organisation does not regard poppies as political, they are concerned it would open the door to countries wanting to wear various different emblems on their shirts, some of which would be overtly political.
However, Britain's FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce was among those who yesterday called for the world governing body to permit England's players to wear poppies on their shirts against Spain.
He told Press Association Sport: "Personally I think there has to be a bit of common sense used when requests like this come in.
"Armistice Day is a very important day in the FA calendar, as it is with other associations, and I don't think it would offend anybody to have a poppy on the shirts.
"I am not involved in the decision and I do understand there have to be rules.
"But as this is a special request from a member of FIFA and is not of a political nature I believe that common sense should prevail and that it should be looked at in a different light."
Sports minister Hugh Robertson also wrote to FIFA yesterday urging them to reconsider.
Robertson's letter said: "We fully understand, and respect, FIFA's rules on its member nations not adorning their shirts with 'commercial', 'political', or 'religious' symbols or messages. The FA and FAW do not intend to contravene these rules.
"However, the British public feel very strongly about this issue which is seen as an act of national remembrance to commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of their country. It is not religious or political in any way."
The Football Association today released a statement confirming the England players would wear black armbands at Wembley.
The statement said: "The FA would like to clarify that the organisation and England players at all levels will be showing their respect and marking Remembrance Day in a number of ways.
"We have been working closely with the Royal British Legion who have welcomed our support."
All England under-21, under-19s players and staff will be wear poppies before and after their matches tomorrow evening, and observe a one-minute silence - with a military guard of honour made up from local regiments is set to lead the teams out at Colchester.
On Friday at training at Wembley the England squad will observe the two-minute silence at 11am, all wearing training tops embossed with poppies.
Ahead of the Spain game, a poppy wreath will be placed on the pitch during the national anthems, with military representatives in the presentation party prior to kick-off before which will be a one-minute silence and the England players will wear black armbands.
Chris Simpkins, the director general of the Royal British Legion, who organise the Poppy Appeal, said: "There are other ways to honour the poppy than by wearing it on a shirt.
"The FA has helped us explore every alternative available and we are satisfied that England will enter the competition knowing they have shown proper respect for our armed forces."