Irish Republican News · November 12, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Poppy dispute could hit World Cup qualification


Irish soccer player James McClean has been vindicated after FIFA, the international soccer body, insisted that the use of the poppy symbol on football jerseys is a political statement.

The poppy is the symbol of the British Legion in its fundraising efforts for British soldiers and their families who are or were engaged in British military campaigns, including in Ireland. Around the world, it has become synonymous with tyranny, war crimes and human rights abuses.

FIFA’s statement on the poppy evoked a major controversy as all four ‘United Kingdom’ squads are playing international matches this weekend and had intended to wear the poppy on their jerseys. The international organisation reiterated that the poppy is in breach of Fifa’s law four that bans the wearing of anything that can be construed as a political statement.

In an act of defiance, England and Scotland players wore black armbands on Friday bearing a large red poppy during their World Cup qualifying matches, despite failing to get clearance from Fifa. The sides risked a potential points’ deduction by opting to wear the armbands.

The ‘Northern Ireland’ team wore plain black armbands which had been cleared by FIFA when they also played on Friday, and Wales are set to wear plain black armbands when they play later today [Saturday].

However, the Brit backlash saw the Irish squad become a target over a commemorative 1916 centenary logo which was used on shirts earlier this year. The special jersey was worn in a friendly against Switzerland in Dublin in March and marked the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It was cited by Conservative MP Damian Collins when he accused FIFA of double standards, prompting FIFA to opened disciplinary proceedings against the Football Association of Ireland.

A statement from FIFA in relation to the Easter Rising centenary logo read: “We can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened on this matter. Please understand we cannot comment further at this stage nor speculate on any outcome.”

The FAI has not yet commented on the ruling but is believed to be seeking legal advice. Most recent disciplinary actions taken by FIFA against other football nations have resulted in monetary penalties.


Meanwhile, Derry-born soccer player James McClean was again condemned by unionist politicians for refusing to wear the poppy in a domestic English league game. In the match-day programme for his West Bromwich Albion team, McClean explained that he chose not to wear a poppy because it commemorated British involvement in all conflicts.

“If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem,” he said.

“I would wear it every day of the year if that was the thing but it doesn’t, it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in.

“Because of the history where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”

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