The soccer associations of England, Scotland and Wales are trying to persuade FIFA to allow players to mark Remembrance Day by wearing poppies on their jerseys, something the sport’s governing body controversially prohibits because it interprets the blood-red flower as a political symbol.
England and Scotland are due to face off in a World Cup qualifier in London’s Wembley Stadium on Friday Nov. 11, while Wales take on Serbia in Cardiff the following evening.
FIFA’s equipment regulations state that “political, religious, commercial statements, images and/or other announcements” may not be displayed on team apparel. The federation has the authority to penalize teams who flout the rules by deducting points.
According to the BBC, it is unlikely that FIFA sees the poppy as a religious or commercial symbol, so it appears that its concern lies in the perception of the poppy as a political emblem
However, many in the UK are decrying this interpretation.
A similar kerfuffle erupted back in 2011 in the run-up to England’s friendly game versus Spain, with Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron appealing to FIFA to allow England’s stars to wear poppies.
On that occasion, FIFA compromised by allowing the players to wear poppies on their black armbands — but not on their jerseys — and permitted the two teams to observe a minute’s silence before kick-off.
WATCH: Why we wear the poppy
Over 4,000 people have signed a Change.org petition set up by a former Royal Air Force prisoner of war to ask FIFA to “let England and Scotland footballers wear their poppies with pride.”
Meanwhile, a number of Brits including former England forward Ian Wright have taken to social media to voice their disdain with FIFA.
Irish soccer player James McClean, who plays in the English Premier League, has repeatedly stirred up controversy for refusing to wear a poppy on his jersey, the Birmingham Mail reports.