Speaking Personally: Scott Inglis takes a poppy at FIFA

Scott Inglis
Scott Inglis

The furore over whether or not British sporting teams should have been allowed to wear the poppy symbol on their shirts has now died down – but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The debate centred on a ruling by football’s governing body, FIFA, that the Scottish, English and Welsh national sides were forbidden from displaying the emblem on their shirts during fixtures held over the Remembrance weekend.

One side argued that the ruling was a gross disrespect to our war dead and their families, the other, that the rule was put in place to defend the neutrality of the sport and to prevent similar initiatives elsewhere in the world.

The English FA, in particular, was vitriolic in its response, with suggestions made ranging from allowing the players to demonstrate an act of defiance by wearing the poppy anyway, through to the association pulling completely out of FIFA.

The situation, for me, descended into a sorry circus, with Prince William, David Cameron, various MPs, the media and, ultimately, the far right English Defence League all frothing at the mouth in outrage.

But sadly the argument had long become less a case of respecting the war dead and more a hammer to batter the seemingly heartless FIFA with.

The governing body had sanctioned a period of silence before the game (in my opinion always the most dignified way to display an act of respect and remembrance), allowed players to wear black arm-bands, to wear a poppy on their pre-match kit and also to lay a wreath on the pitch.

That’s hardly the behaviour of a group of people determined to disrespect the fallen.

However, FIFA was determined to maintain a hard-line on its position over the players’ kits – rules I’m sure the FA would have played a part in writing into the law book, I may add.

In this country we recognise the poppy as a symbol of remembrance of those who have perished giving their lives in service during two World Wars.

But consider for a second if another country wanted to display its national pride by brandishing a symbol in recognition of its war fallen.

What if that particular war had cost a neighbouring country countless lives and forced prolonged misery down on to it.

Is FIFA’s blanket policy not right to prevent this?

The displaying of symbols of this kind would become open to abuse – I’ve no doubt of that.

A compromise was reached, which saw players take to the field with the emblem on their black arm-bands.

Now, I wonder how many of those who leaped on to the bandwagon so vocally last week stood for a period of silence on the 11th hour on Friday.

How many of them visited their local war memorial on Sunday morning and joined with others in laying a wreath?

And how many of them will now continue their campaigning and force a re-think on plans to reduce the amount of funding given to Britain’ national memorial?

Or is the war for them now over?

*Scott Inglis is a reporter based at the East Fife Mail