The English Football Association are in talks with FIFA to allow the England team to wear a Poppy on their shirts during the game on Saturday against Spain. Evidently FIFA’s regulations do not permit international shirts to carry any ‘political, religious or commercial messages’. This indeed is a very noble pledge by FIFA, but I struggle with the Poppy emblem being either political, religious or commercial.
The problem is, the annual ritual of remembrance is predominantly a British (and Commonwealth) phenomena. Some other countries perhaps see it as a week or two when old guys with medals hang about shopping centres giving out plastic flowers and rattling collection tins; i.e. it is nothing more than a fundraising gimmick. But it is more than that. Much more. The whole act of remembrance is deeply engrained within the British psyche unlike any other nation. It is more than just collecting a few bob for some old soldiers, and it goes beyond watching a few war documentaries on the history channel. It is one of the few times that the whole nation unites as a whole and works together for the greater good. People do wear their poppy with pride (I know I do), it brings us together as a race, it is part of what makes us British.
FIFA are obviously applying the letter of their laws here, but I think they just do not understand how deeply engrained in our society the wearing of the Poppy, and the act of Remembrance during this time is in the British culture.
I had a similar issue at work, a few months ago. I was asked to put on a partner event in November. Great!! To no great surprise for those people who know me, I booked the Imperial War Museum as the venue, I also managed to secure Cpl Johnson Beharry VC as a keynote/motivational speaker. I planned to turn the event into a quasi charity event where our partners would be asked to make a voluntary contribution of £50 to the Poppy Appeal, and what ever total these contributions made at the end of the day, I would match it. I reckon it would have raised about £500 for the British Legion.
However, my VP of marketing (American) heard of it and made it very clear to me that if I valued my job I was to cancel the event. Asking partners to pay to attend an event was an absolute no-no. He (the VP) was outraged – it was an absurd idea! And another thing, who was this guy speaking? We don’t ‘do’ motivational speakers – they don’t work, our partners want to know about our products, Scott. Nothing else. It is not a circus yadda yadda yadda….and so it went on.
I tried to continue with the event without him knowing, but there were too many people involved that couldn’t be trusted to blab…so I had to shelve the project. It annoyed me greatly on many levels…but I need to feed by kids, so I allowed my head to over-rule my heart.
It was a shame really because when i mentioned this event idea to a few partners in London they were really excited about and thought it was a great idea. But of course they loved it – because they get it.
I think both situations are nothing more than a lack of understanding and perhaps a bit of ignorance on the part of the non-British people involved who don’t really get the whole Poppy Appeal/Armed forces charity feelings that are incredibly strong in this country and is indeed part of our national identity.
Let’s hope the FA stand up to FIFA a bit better than I did to my VP and tell them to stuff their rules and regulations where the sun doesn’t shine.