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English, Scottish FAs set to go against FIFA poppy ban in upcoming international

FIFA says the poppy, widely used in the UK to commemorate war dead, is a political emblem and is therefore banned. England and Scotland are set to go against FIFA and display the poppy on November 11.

England and Scotland are set to defy a FIFA ruling and wear a poppy on their shirts in the World Cup soccer qualifier at Wembley Stadium on November 11.

A poppy worn on an item of clothing in the first two weeks of November has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in British conflicts.

Poppies, which grew on the battlefields of the First World War, are widely on display in the run up to and on November 11, Armistice Day, and poppy wreaths are placed at war memorials throughout the United Kingdom.

However, the symbol has come under scrutiny in recent years with critics and some military veterans seeing the poppy as a propaganda tool for British military campaigns.

As such, world soccer's governing body FIFA considers the symbol on a player's jersey as falling under "political, religious or personal statements” and therefore it is banned in international football under threat of sanctions.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the ban "utterly outrageous" in parliament on Wednesday and had a dig at FIFA's controversial recent past. 

"Our football players want to recognize and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security," said May. "I think it is absolutely right that they should be able to do so. I have to say to FIFA that, before they start telling us what to do, they jolly well ought to sort their own house out."

English FA chairman Greg Clarke also spoke out against the ban and insisted that the English national team will go against FIFA and wear the poppy on their jersey or on black armbands. FIFA eventually allowed the poppy armband tribute after a similar rumpus in 2011.   

Speaking to ITV, Clarke said: "We'll be wearing poppies at Wembley. I mean, we'd rather come to an agreement with FIFA so that they're happy with that, but you know, it's inconceivable that the FA won't be sanctioning the wearing of poppies at Wembley.”

He added: "We're balancing respect for the fallen and their families. We're negotiating in good faith with FIFA to try and find a solution."

The Scottish FA released a statement a few hours later which confirmed that although it took the laws of the game "very seriously", Scotland would also be sporting the poppy on armbands. 

"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," read the statement from Hampden Park. 

"In keeping with what we believe is in accordance with Law 4, para 4, the Scottish FA intends to pay appropriate tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by having the Scotland national team wear black armbands bearing poppies in our fixture against England on Armistice Day."

FIFA said that although it respected the "significance" of the day in the United Kingdom, it would maintain the ban for the forthcoming clash. 

"The Laws are applied uniformly in the event of similar request by any member association to commemorate similar historical events," read a statement. 

"The Laws of the Game are overseen by the International Football Association Board (composed of the four British FAs and FIFA) and applicable to all 211 member associations. The relevant Law 4, para. 4, clearly states that the players equipment should not carry any political, religious or commercial messages."