FIFA’s evolving stance on commemorative symbols: The poppy appeal caseNeeraj Thomas
On 11 November 2016, England played Scotland in a FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier match at Wembley Stadium. The match was not particularly memorable for anything that happened on the pitch (at least for those of us north of the border). Rather it was the furore that followed the match that was most widely reported. In particular, the fact the Scottish and English players wore black armbands with a poppy symbol, given the match’s proximity to Remembrance Sunday sparked fierce debate. As many readers will be aware, poppies are traditionally regarded as a symbol of remembrance of soldiers who have died during wartime, especially in both world wars.1
There were numerous media reports leading up to the game querying whether or not the English and Scottish players would indeed wear poppies to mark the occasion2. Many commentators claimed it was the right thing to do (Theresa May classified FIFA’s attitude towards poppies as “utterly outrageous”3 whilst others questioned whether the risk was really worth it4). The risk was, of course, disciplinary sanctions being imposed by FIFA.
In light of the broader tensions between sport and politics, this article considers FIFA’s case against the home nation Football Associations for wearing and/or displaying poppies during international matches, and their subsequent change in approach towards such commemorative symbols. Specifically, it looks at:
FIFA’s rules and regulations preventing “political symbols” and the lack of specification
The meaning of “political”
The meaning of “equipment”
The first instance decision against the home nation FAs
The appeal decision and CAS proceedings
FIFA’s change in approach towards commemorative symbols
Comment on the tensions between sport and politics
The author acts for the Scottish FA.
...to continue reading register here for free
LawInSport is an independent publisher used by sports lawyers, sports business executives and administrators, athletes and support personnel, academics and students to stay informed of the latest legal issues and developments from the world of sport. It is our mission to improve the accountability, transparency and standard of the administration and governance of sport and the understanding of the law.
Thank you for considering becoming a member of LawInSport, supporting independent media and the promotion well researched, reference and accessible legal information that contributes to greater transparency and accountability in the sport and legal sectors.
This work was written for and first published on LawInSport.com (unless otherwise stated) and the copyright is owned by LawInSport Ltd. Permission to make digital or hard copies of this work (or part, or abstracts, of it) for personal use provided copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage, and provided that all copies bear this notice and full citation on the first page (which should include the URL, company name (LawInSport), article title, author name, date of the publication and date of use) of any copies made. Copyright for components of this work owned by parties other than LawInSport must be honoured.
- Tags: Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) | Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) | FIFA | FIFA Disciplinary Committee | FIFA 2018 World Cup | FIFA Laws of the Game | Football | Politics | Scottish FA | The FA | The Football Association (The FA) | UEFA | Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) | United Kingdom (UK)
- Politics and sport: How FIFA, UEFA and the IOC regulate political statements by athletes
- A guide to the World Players Association’s Universal Declaration of Player Rights
- ECA Delegation meets with EU Sports Commissioner & EU Parliament President