FIFA has restrictions on England footballers wearing poppies

1 November 2016
What was claimed

FIFA doesn't allow poppies to be worn on international football jerseys.

Our verdict

Correct, but in 2011 they allowed armbands embroidered with poppies to be worn.

“FIFA are blocking England and Scotland from wearing poppies on their shirts for the World Cup qualifiers next week”

The Sun, 1 November 2016

This is correct. Football’s governing body has strict rulesat least in theoryon players wearing what it considers to be political symbols.

The offending rule is to be found in FIFA’s 100-page Equipment Regulations. They’re detailed, covering almost every conceivable aspect of playing kit.

Rule 5.7, for instance, insists that “the Colour of any tape or similar material temporarily applied to a Playing Equipment item must be of the same group of a basic Colour as the predominant Colour of the same Playing Equipment item”.

We’re no sports lawyers, but the translation seems to be that if you tape up yellow boots, the tape has to be some shade of yellow as well.

Rule 6.11 ensures that breathing holes in shirt numbers can’t spell out a slogan or sponsor’s logo.

The motivation may be to ensure a consistent commercial product. In 2004, FIFA hit Cameroon with a six-figure fine for wearing a one-piece kit instead of separate shorts and jerseys.

So it’s not entirely surprising to see a rule on advertising. Rule 57.1 says that

“on all Playing Equipment items [which include jerseys] used on, or brought into (permanently or temporarily), the Pitch Area, for all Matches, any form of advertising… of political, religious, commercial, personal statements, images and/or other announcements, is strictly prohibited”.

For good measure, the same applies to “Decorative Elements” on kit.

Some may wonder why this rules out poppy badges but not the poppy armbands that FIFA permitted Home Nations players to wear the last time this row broke out in November 2011.

On that occasion, public figures from the Sports Minister to Prince William argued that the poppy isn't political or religious.

But Dr James Fox, an art historian at the University of Cambridge, argues in a 2014 book that “the poppy has always been, and continues to be, a profoundly political symbol".

FIFA had held out against poppies on jerseys on the basis that “accepting such initiatives would open the door to similar initiatives from all over the world, jeopardising the neutrality of football”.

A poppy embroidered on a black armband was the eventual compromise.

The Football Associations of England, Wales and Scotland are reportedly in talks with FIFA over poppies in the teams’ World Cup qualifying games on 11 and 12 November.

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