07 November 2011

FIFA gets something right

More poppy madness, I'm afraid, and some people might like to look away now. I've just read a tweet that says "The world has gone mad" because FIFA won't let the England football teams have a poppy design on their shirts for their game against Spain on Saturday. (Guardian story here.)

Here's the first provocation, which I feel I should whisper. The world's gone mad when people think footballers should wear a poppy design on their shirt. To amplify on my earlier view, it seems that remembrance these days is all about putting your feelings on display, with the implication that you can't be sincere unless you're wearing a poppy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for about 3 weeks. It's like a few years ago, when everyone was encouraged to wear a pink ribbon to show their opposition to breast cancer. As if anyone is in favour of it... England's footballers can express their views perfectly well without wearing a poppy symbol on their shirts. They could be silent on the morning of 11 November. They could go to a remembrance service next Sunday. They could donate their match fee to the appeal. And there will in any case be a minute's silence before the game.

And here's the even more shocking view: I think FIFA is right. Their rules say that a national team can't change its kit without approval, and that in particular the kit shouldn't carry any "political, religious or commercial messages". It's debatable whether the poppy symbol is a political message. Lots of people would say it is, in that it implicitly condones militarism. I'm not sure. But I think it's right to be careful about these things, and it's better that FIFA should ban anything that looks remotely like a political symbol, rather than get into a discussion of what is and what isn't. I really don't want Sepp Blatter making that kind of decision (or any decision at all, in an ideal world).

Funnily enough, it seems the organisers of the poppy appeal agree with me. A British Legion spokesman says: "We appreciate that showing support is not always possible under some regulations and we would never seek to impose ourselves in these situations."

So, in one morning I've found myself agreeing with FIFA and the British Legion, and disagreeing with (apparently) the vast majority of football supporters. I need to go and lie down. 

1 comment :

Sean said...

The world has gone mad