Fifa to probe all acts of remembrance during football game

Scotland players wore poppies on their armbands during last week's World Cup qualifier at Wembley
Scotland players wore poppies on their armbands during last week's World Cup qualifier at Wembley
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Fifa is considering far wider charges against the Scottish and English Football Associations as part of its probe into the wearing of armbands with poppies on them during last week’s World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

Players from both teams wore the armbands despite being warned by Fifa that it would contravene an International Football Association Board rule against equipment with commercial, personal, political or religious logos and messages.

World football’s governing body has now confirmed that its disciplinary committee is also investigating almost every aspect of what the FA and SFA did to mark the Armistice Day match.

A Fifa spokesman said: “The disciplinary committee decided to open proceedings against the FA and the Scottish FA in relation to a series of incidents reported after the match, including the wearing of arm bands with a poppy symbol, several cases of fan misconduct, a non-approved pre-match ceremony, the display of flags by fans with poppies and members of the armed forces, the display of poppy symbols on the big screen and T-shirts displaying poppies placed on seats.

“These incidents potentially constitute breaches of the laws of the game 2016/2017, the Fifa disciplinary code, the Fifa stadium safety and security regulations, the regulations of the 2018 Fifa World Cup and the guidelines for Fifa match officials.”

Fifa announced on Thursday that the disciplinary process had started in relation to the armbands, which was widely expected given its firm stance in the build-up to the game and the recent spate of decisions its disciplinary committee has taken against other member associations for crowd-related issues or matters of protocol.

But confirmation that the FA and SFA could be in much greater trouble is likely to enflame an already heated dispute.

The FA marked the occasion by displaying poppies on the large video screens inside and outside the stadium, distributed poppy t-shirts, held a minute’s silence before the game and asked a lone bugler to play the Last Post, as well as inviting hundreds of servicemen and women.

Both the English and Scottish FAs dispute Fifa’s interpretation of the poppy as a political symbol and believe it is simply a mark of respect for those who have died serving their country.

Cases of “fan misconduct” are believed to refer to objects that were thrown onto the pitch and the booing of both national anthems.

Prior to the game, the home nations both said they were confident they would be able to successfully appeal against any Fifa punishment, particularly as they believe a clear precedent was set in 2011 when England, Scotland and Wales were allowed to wear arm bands with poppies on them during three November friendlies.

But senior figures at Fifa - which is now led by president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Fatma Samoura - have signalled that they are determined to enforce the letter of the law when it comes to banning what they see as external distractions and potentially inflammatory messages.

Earlier this month, the Iranian FA was fined £37,000 for asking fans to sing religious chants and wear black during a World Cup qualifier against South Korea which was played on a holy day in the Islamic country. Several other nations have been fined for the behaviour of their supporters in recent months.

Given the potential list of charges, a points deduction is possible, although it is understood that a fine is the more likely outcome, with a decision expected next month.