David Cameron calls FIFA’s poppy ban ‘outrageous’
LONDON—British Prime Minister David Cameron called it “outrageous” that FIFA has refused to allow England players to wear embroidered red poppies on their football shirts to honor Britain’s war dead.
Cameron said Wednesday that he still hoped FIFA will allow the poppies for England’s friendly against world champion Spain at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
FIFA rejected a request by the English Football Association to allow players to wear the poppies to mark Remembrance Day on November 11 — when Commonwealth countries pay tribute to members of the armed forces who have died on duty since World War I.
World football’s ruling body said it could not allow any symbol that might be construed as political.
“This seems outrageous,” Cameron said. “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.”
The poppy is an official symbol of remembrance in many countries because they were the first plants that rose from the barren battlefields after World War I.
British sports minister Hugh Robertson wrote to FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke this week to back the FA’s request, prompting FIFA to reiterate its policy of banning political, religious or commercial messages on official uniforms and equipment.
FIFA urged the FA to consider a number of other options, including a period of silence before the game.
“We regret to inform you that accepting such initiatives would open the door to similar initiatives from all over the world, jeopardizing the neutrality of football,” FIFA said. “Therefore, we confirm herewith that the suggested embroidery on the match shirt cannot be authorized.”
The Football Association said it instead planned to give players black armbands to wear during the match, while players will circumvent FIFA’s ban on wearing shirts carrying the symbol by instead wearing poppy-embossed jackets during the pre-match national anthems.
FIFA has already approved plans for both England and Wales, which plays Norway in Cardiff on Saturday, to observe a minute’s silence before their matches.
The FA said a poppy wreath will also be placed upon the Wembley field prior to the match.