FIFA rejects England's popply plea
England's hopes of wearing an embroidered red poppy on their football shirts to honor Britain's war dead were again rejected by FIFA on Tuesday, despite a last-ditch and heartfelt intervention by the British government.
The Football Association had made a special request to FIFA to relax its stance preventing England from marking Remembrance Day - when Commonwealth countries pay tribute to members of the armed forces who have died on duty since World War I - by wearing the poppies in Saturday's friendly against Spain at Wembley Stadium.
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.
Even Hugh Robertson, Britain's sports minister, weighed into the affair, sending a letter to FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke stressing how strongly ''the British public feel ... about this issue which is seen as an act of national remembrance.''
However, FIFA reiterated its policy of banning political, religious or commercial messages on official uniforms and equipment, and 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 in a statement released by the FA.
''Therefore, we confirm herewith that the suggested embroidery on the match shirt cannot be authorized.''
Some figures within FIFA disagreed with their own organization's stance.
FIFA vice president Jim Boyce pleaded with his employers on Tuesday to use ''common sense'' by allowing players to wear the poppies.
''Armistice Day is a very important day in the FA calendar ... and I don't think it would offend anybody to have a poppy on the shirts,'' Boyce said.
Robertson issued an emotional appeal to FIFA, saying: ''Wearing a poppy is a display of national pride, just like wearing your country's football shirt. I hope very much that you will approve this request.''
Still, FIFA wouldn't budge.
''There are a variety of options where the FA can continue supporting the cause of Remembrance. One of them already was approved by FIFA, the period of silence,'' the FIFA statement read.
Both England and Wales, which plays Norway in Cardiff on Saturday, plan to observe a minute's silence before their matches.