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Fifa poppy ban on international players is 'utterly outrageous' says Theresa May

An England player wearing a black armband with a poppy symbol during a match in 2011
By David Hughes, Tom Wilkinson and Shaun Connolly, Press Association

THERESA May has condemned world football's ruling body over the "utterly outrageous" ban on international players wearing poppies.

England and Scotland meet at Wembley on November 11, Armistice Day, and there had been hopes that players would wear commemorative shirts.

But according to Fifa, teams may not display political, religious or commercial symbols on their kit.

At prime minister's questions Mrs May tore into the footballing body as she defended the players' right to wear special commemorative kits.

She told MPs: "I think the stance that has been taken by Fifa is utterly outrageous.

"Our football players want to recognise and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security. I think it is absolutely right that they should be able to do so."

She said it was a matter for the English and Scottish football associations, but there was a "clear message" from the House of Commons that "we want our players to be able to wear those poppies".

And in a direct message to world football's governing body, which has been plagued by corruption allegations, she said: "Before they start telling us what to do, they jolly well ought to sort their own house out."

Former RAF pilot and prisoner of war John Nichol has launched a petition on the site urging Fifa to change its mind.

He wrote: "The poppy is not a political statement at all. It could not be further from a political statement.

"It is a statement of remembrance and an acknowledgement of sacrifice from the First World War right through to the sacrifices of our young men and women today."

Mr Nichol said many service personnel were football fans, and the match was an opportunity for the country to show "how much we as a society care about the work these heroes do".

He added: "No-one should ever be banned from wearing a poppy and it brings shame on Fifa that they continue to propagate this misunderstanding of our heritage."

Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons Sports Committee, said the ban was insulting to British fans.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I hope common sense prevails. Fifa has strict rules banning political, religious or commercial symbols from shirts. I think it is insulting to people in this country to say a poppy is one of those sort of symbols.

"Someone has shared with me on social media an Ireland football shirt that has a special embroidery on marking the centenary of the Easter Rising.

"Fifa allow that, so I think people will find it astonishing that the poppy's not allowed."

The Football Association remains optimistic that a compromise can be reached which would allow players to wear poppies on armbands for the World Cup qualifier.

The English and Scottish FAs have been in talks with Fifa for weeks about repeating an agreement reached in 2011, when England, Scotland and Wales played with specially-created armbands.

The Welsh FA has also written to Fifa asking for permission to wear poppies on armbands during their game against Serbia in Cardiff on November 12.

A motion has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament calling for the ban to be scrapped.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden is seeking cross-party support for his call for Fifa to overturn the controversial decision.

He said: "It's obvious for all to see that wearing a poppy to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice is not a political statement.

"Fifa should overturn this bizarre decision immediately. The fans, players and football associations on both sides of the border want to be able to wear the poppy with pride.

"I hope MSPs across all parties back this motion and call for an urgent rethink."

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