FIFA fines British federations for wearing symbols in remembrance of dead soldiers

Monday December 19th, 2016

GENEVA (AP) The four British soccer federations were fined Monday by FIFA for displaying poppies at World Cup qualifying matches in November to honor their war dead.

England's federation must pay 45,000 Swiss francs ($43,800) for the ''display of a political symbol'' at a home match against Scotland on Nov. 11. Scotland was fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($19,500).

In other decisions, Romania was punished for a firework thrown at Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, Greece was fined for a fan banner against Bosnia-Herzegovina which referred to the Srebrenica massacre, and Chile was sanctioned again because of the anti-gay slurs chanted by its fans.

England and Scotland defied FIFA advice and its rules against the use of political, religious or personal symbols on kit and in stadiums, and players wore black armbands embroidered with poppies.

A pre-match ceremony also commemorated British soldiers on the anniversary of the World War I armistice.

Wales and Northern Ireland then followed with similar displays at their home World Cup qualifiers the following day.

''With these decisions, it is not our intention to judge or question specific commemorations as we fully respect the significance of such moments in the respective countries, each one of them with its own history and background,'' FIFA disciplinary panel chairman Claudio Sulser said in a statement.

''However, keeping in mind that the rules need to be applied in a neutral and fair manner across FIFA's 211 member associations, the display, among others, of any political or religious symbol is strictly prohibited.''

England's fine is the same as that imposed on Iran last month, after religious ceremonies were conducted in the stadium in Tehran before hosting South Korea in a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA's rules prohibiting symbolism in stadiums were drafted and approved by the four British federations, who are members of soccer's rule-making panel known as IFAB.

Still, the England soccer federation has argued its ceremonial use of poppies is non-political, and it intends to appeal to FIFA.

''It is disappointing that FIFA has not recognized the sentiment of the poppy, which is not a political symbol,'' British sports minister Tracey Crouch said in a statement Monday. ''Poppies are a poignant tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of our servicemen and women, and footballers and fans alike should be able to wear them with pride.''.

Wales and Northern Ireland were fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($19,500) and 15,000 Swiss francs ($14,600), respectively.

With FIFA seeking to clarify its rules last month, it also prosecuted a retroactive case against Ireland for a political symbol on players' shirts at a friendly match seven months earlier.

The March 25 game in Dublin against Switzerland commemorated the 1916 Easter Rising of Ireland's rebellion against British rule.

FIFA fined the Irish soccer federation 5,000 Swiss francs ($4,785).

The Romanian federation was fined 95,000 Swiss francs ($92,500) and barred from using the National Stadium in Bucharest for a World Cup qualifier against Denmark on March 26.

A firework exploded close to Lewandowski's feet as Poland prepared to defend a second-half corner during a 3-0 win in Bucharest on Nov. 11. The match was stopped for several minutes, and the Bayern Munich forward returned after treatment and scored two late goals.

FIFA fined the Greek federation 80,000 Swiss francs ($77,800) for several incidents during a home qualifier against Bosnia last month, including the offensive banner.

The slogan ''Noz, zica, Srebrenica'' ("Knife, wire, Srebrenica'' in Serbian) was displayed by Greek fans, which have traditional ties with Serbia, reflecting their shared Orthodox religion.

In 1995, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in Srebrenica by ethnic Serb forces during a four-year war after the break-up of Yugoslavia.

After the incident last month, the Greek soccer federation apologized and condemned the ''unacceptable posting of a banner with fascist content.''

FIFA also imposed a fine of 60,000 Swiss francs ($58,400) on Ukraine for fans' offensive chants during a friendly against Serbia in Kharkiv last month.

Anti-gay slurs have been an issue FIFA has tackled across Latin America, and Chile now cannot use its national stadium in Santiago for its next two World Cup qualifiers. Chile was also was fined 30,000 Swiss francs ($29,200).

FIFA said additional fines against Argentina (30,000 Swiss francs; $29,200), Colombia and Panama (25,000 Swiss francs; $24,300 each), and Mexico and Venezuela (20,000 Swiss francs; $19,500 each) were ''for various incidents involving unsporting conduct by fans, including homophobic chants in some instances.''

For other cases of fan misconduct, fines were imposed on Poland (35,000 Swiss francs; $34,000) and Bosnia (25,000 Swiss francs; $24,300 each).

Honduras is barred from using its Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula for a March 28 qualifier against Costa Rica. It follows incidents at a Nov. 11 match at home to Panama, and FIFA also fined the Honduras federation 40,000 Swiss francs ($39,000).

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