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Flower power: England and Scotland to ignore FIFA ruling and commemorate Armistice Day at a soccer match

Alan Crowhurst | Getty Images | Getty Images Sport

The England and Scotland soccer associations have instructed their respective teams to wear black armbands with a poppy emblem for their Armistice Day soccer match, in spite of possible sanctions from FIFA.


'Utterly outrageous'

The poppy is a symbol of respect and remembrance for British and Commonwealth armed forces that died in World War I and later conflicts. The paper poppy is usually worn in the weeks leading up to and on Remembrance Day on November 11th - the same day England and Scotland are due to play each other at their World Cup Qualifier fixture.

However, soccer's governing body, FIFA, has a blanket ban on teams commemorating any historical event or carrying any "political, religious or commercial messages."

The ruling has sparked an intense debate as to whether or not the soccer players should wear a poppy symbol on their shirts with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May describing the ban by FIFA as "utterly outrageous". A petition to allow England and Scotland's footballers to wear the poppy symbol has attracted almost 300,000 signatures.

Question of interpretation

A FIFA logo sits on the rooftop at the FIFA headquarters on June 3, 2015 in Zurich.
Getty Images
A FIFA logo sits on the rooftop at the FIFA headquarters on June 3, 2015 in Zurich.

FIFA, soccer's international governing body, told CNBC when contacted on Thursday that they fully respected the significance of commemorating Remembrance Day however it stated that the laws are applied "uniformly in the event of similar requests by any member association to commemorate similar historical events."

The FIFA spokesperson went on to add, "The relevant Law 4, paragraph 4, clearly states that the players equipment should not carry any political, religious or commercial messages. "

Nonetheless, the British soccer associations confirmed in respective statements on Wednesday that their national teams will challenge FIFA, in wearing the poppies and therefore risk any and all sanctions that may come their way.

In a joint statement., the English and Scottish soccer associations said, "The poppy is an important symbol of remembrance and we do not believe it represents a political, religious or commercial message, nor does it relate to any one historical event."

'No reason why poppy should be banned'

The Royal British Legion, a U.K. charity which organizes the Poppy Appeal, appeared to agree with the football association's (FA) interpretation of the law. A spokesperson for The Royal British Legion said in an email to CNBC, "We see no reason why the poppy should be banned from players shirts as it is not a political symbol. "

The spokesperson went on to add, "We are working closely with The FA to ensure the commitment and sacrifice of our Armed Forces is recognized during the Armistice Day match at Wembley."

The match has been largely overshadowed by the poppy furor off the field. Scotland will visit group leaders England at Wembley looking to revitalize their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in two years' time.