London (AFP) – Football global governing body FIFA insisted Friday it was a “distortion of the facts” to suggest they would punish British national associations determined to mark this weekend’s World Cup qualifiers with poppy tributes.

Both England and Scotland pan to defy what they believe to be a FIFA ban on the wearing of poppies, a national symbol honouring war dead, when their teams meet at Wembley on Friday.

The latest edition of international football’s oldest fixtures takes place on November 11 — Armistice Day in Britain as it marks the anniversary of the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918.

Players wearing the poppy symbol on their shirts would appear to contravene FIFA regulations forbidding the display of messages considered to be commercial, personal, political or religious.

Officials at both England’s Football Association and the Scottish Football Association have tried to find out just what sort of punishment they could face, amid fears of fines or even points deductions.

But a FIFA spokesperson told AFP on Friday it could only act on actual events.

“FIFA was recently contacted by the four British FAs (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) with specific requests related to the wearing of ‘poppy symbols’ by the players during the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifying matches,” said the spokesperson.

“FIFA’s administration does not have the jurisdiction to take any such decision. 

“The proper body tasked with ensuring the uniform application of the Laws of the Game is the independent disciplinary committee. 

“FIFA’s administration provided information to the four British FAs without making any judgements regarding their specific requests, so the perception that FIFA ‘banned’ anything is a distortion of the facts.”

The spokesperson added: “Law Four was created by the International Football Association Board (made up of the four British FAs and FIFA)) to provide an equal framework for all members by making it clear that players’ equipment must be free of political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images.”

Hours before Friday’s kick-off at Wembley, a wreath of poppies was laid on the turf.

– ‘Bit of a stand’ –

English FA chief executive Martin Glenn said Thursday: “A couple of weeks ago we told FIFA, in line with what he had agreed with them in 2011 (for a game with Spain) that we would wear armbands, not a poppy embedded in the shirt because FIFA have a law of the game that you cannot use political symbols on shirts.

“We had a row with them in 2011 and thought we had got over it. Unfortunately with the new personalities coming in they wanted to make a bit of a stand, which is very disappointing.”

The Football Association of Wales announced Thursday they had ditched plans to go ahead with a similar poppy tribute to the one planned by their English and Scottish counterparts during Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Cardiff amid fears of a fine or, arguably even worse, a points deduction by FIFA.

Wales players will wear black armbands, a traditional symbol of mourning often adopted by sportsmen in various contexts, when they face Serbia.

The England cricket team observed a poppy tribute with a minute’s silence before Friday’s play in the second Test against India in Rajkot.

A similar gesture is expected before kick-off in Saturday’s rugby union international between England and Australia in London.

But with countries from the Commonwealth — nations once part of the British Empire — accounting for all of cricket’s leading international teams and many within rugby union, the poppy tribute is far less controversial in those sports than it is in football.