FA head tough on Guardiola’s “political symbol” ribbon

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
1 Comment

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is annoying many Spaniards by wearing a pro-Catalan yellow ribbon, the head of the English Football Association said, highlighting the need to be tough on keeping political symbols out of soccer.

The FA’s CEO, Martin Glenn, also said “we don’t want” religious symbols being displayed by teams, including the Star of David. The symbol of Judaism is the main component of the Israeli flag.

Glenn succeeded last year in persuading soccer’s lawmaking body, The International Football Association Board, to change the statutes to ensure poppies commemorating Britain’s war dead were allowed on England jerseys and no longer flouted regulations banning political, religious or personal symbols on kits and in stadiums.

Glenn defended the FA’s decision to charge Guardiola for wearing a yellow ribbon at games, claiming it cannot be compared to the poppy. Guardiola, a former Barcelona player and coach, wears a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan politicians who were jailed or went into exile after a secession bid in October when an independence referendum banned by Madrid authorities was held.

“To be honest, and to be very clear, Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon is a political symbol, it’s a symbol of Catalan independence, and I can tell you there are many more Spaniards, non-Catalans, who are (expletive) off by it,” Glenn told reporters after an IFAB meeting.

“All we are doing is even-handedly applying the laws of the game. Poppies are not political symbols. That yellow ribbon is. Where do you draw the line?”

Glenn referenced the right-wing, euroskeptic U.K. Independence Party and the Islamic State group.

“Should we have someone with a UKIP badge, someone with an ISIS badge? That’s why you have to be pretty tough that local, regional, national party organizations cannot use football shirts to represent them,” Glenn said.

Glenn further expanded on why the law banning “political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” on equipment is necessary.

“We have re-written Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK,” Glenn said. “But things that are going to be highly divisive, and that could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could be the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like (former Zimbabwe president) Robert Mugabe on your shirt, these are the things we don’t want.”

The Star of David referenced by Glenn features on the Israeli flag which appears on national team kits and in the stadium. The English FA’s president is Prince William, who is due to visit Israel later this year.