By , Posted on 11th November 2011 - Posted in: News

The often strained relationship that exists between FIFA and British football’s national governing bodies reared it’s ugly head again this week with the row over England’s plans to wear a specially designed ‘poppy’ shirt for this weekend’s friendly against Spain.

The English FA was told in no uncertain terms that if the team took the field wearing the said shirts then the referee would abandon the game before kick-off. Both the Prime Minister David Cameron and The Prince of Wales, no less, took up the cudgels and lobbied FIFA in defence of the FA, but to no avail.

However, a compromise deal was eventually thrashed out. England’s players will still be displaying poppies, not on their shirts but more discretely on the black armbands they will each be wearing. Are FIFA right to take this stance or is it yet another example of president Sepp Blatter taking any opportunity to beat the Brits with a stick?

Personally I believe there are wider issues to the whole business. First of all I’m not entirely convinced by this current trend for football teams to print shirts with poppies on. It smacks to me of wanting to be seen to be ‘doing the right thing’. I mean the buying and wearing of a poppy is meant to be a very personal, simple act, not some sort of crass commercial or fashion statement. Secondly, David Cameron’s point that this was not a political issue became redundant the moment he, as Prime Minister, got involved. Now we’ve somehow dragged the whole tradition, something the British people had always understood completely, into the sporting and political arenas where it has no place.

It’s a special weekend of course and there is no suggestion that England are going to leave the poppies on their shirts beyond the match with Spain but the affair has brought into sharper focus the boundaries that should exist between sport and politics. I mean, if it’s ok for England’s shirts to carry poppies do we have any objections if Argentina or Germany decide to honour their war dead the next time they pitch up at Wembley? Such a development would be very sad not to say wholly inappropriate.

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