FIFA fines British federations for memorials at World Cup matches

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

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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 against the use of political, religious or personal symbols and wore black armbands embroidered with poppies.

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

“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 in a similar case. Religious ceremonies were conducted before Iran hosted South Korea in a World Cup qualifier in Tehran.

Wales and Northern Ireland were fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($19,500) and 15,000 Swiss francs ($14,600), respectively, for poppy displays at home World Cup qualifiers on Nov. 12.

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).