Fifa backs down after poppy ban on Wales shirts

Gareth Bale
Image caption Wales and Spurs player Gareth Bale training for the Norway match

Wales footballers have been given clearance to wear poppies on their black arm bands during the international with Norway on Saturday.

Governing body Fifa had earlier blocked both Wales and England from wearing poppies over the Remembrance weekend.

But after intense pressure from the UK government, and the intervention of Prince William as FA president, Fifa has backed down and changed its rules.

The FA of Wales confirmed the poppies would be worn.

The Football Association said England had now been told players could wear a poppy on their black armbands in Saturday's game with Spain.

Fifa has confirmed that its new ruling leaves the way clear for Wales to do the same as England and wear poppies on their armbands at the Norway game in Cardiff.

There are already plans for a silence and for the match ball to be presented by a member of the Royal Regiment of Wales.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) had said Fifa's rules had meant that the Wales team's message of remembrance had to be confined to their training kit in the warm-up.

"The FAW has always had a policy of marking Remembrance Day itself in the correct and proper manner," said a spokesman.

The Wales team had planned to wear training tops with the poppy before the friendly bearing the message "Cymru'n Cofio - Wales Remembers".

Fifa had maintained that such messages would endanger football's neutrality.

The English FA, with backing from the FAW, had twice asked Fifa to overturn the ban, but its request was turned down.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "We are pleased that FIFA has recognised the strength of feeling on this issue and seen sense to allow players to mark their respects during Saturday's game against Norway."

"The poppy is a symbol of huge significance to the people of Wales and it's only right the Welsh players can pay their respects, like everyone else."

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron said the Fifa ruling was "outrageous" and said he will write to the body.

His comments came as it emerged Prince William, as Duke of Cambridge, had written to Fifa demanding the ban be lifted.

Clarence House said: "The Duke's strong view is the poppy is a universal symbol of remembrance, which has no political, religious or commercial connotations."

Fifa's rules prevent anything of a political nature being worn on shirts and although the organisation does not regard poppies as political, it had been concerned it would create a precedent for emblems which could be controversial.

Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock told BBC Radio there was no justification for stopping Wales and England players from wearing the emblem of remembrance.

"The two British teams who are in contest this weekend want to wear the poppies and there is absolutely no logical justification in the position taken by Fifa, one of the most bumbling, bureaucratic bodies that curses the world," said Lord Kinnock.

"It's exceeding itself on this occasion beyond anybody's dreams," he added.

The FAW said squad players will also attend a remembrance service at 11:00 GMT on Friday.

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