Northern Ireland Football Association vows 'robust defence' over sanctions

Gareth Bale celebrates after opening the scoring for Wales in a 1-1 draw with Serbia.
The Wales players wore black armbands but not poppies during the World Cup qualifier against Serbia.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) has said it has been charged by FIFA over supporters wearing poppies in the crowd during the World Cup qualifier against Serbia this month.

Earlier on Wednesday, world football’s governing body opened disciplinary proceedings against Wales and Northern Ireland in relation to acts of remembrance at World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Azerbaijan respectively.

The FAW has detailed the incidents that FIFA has confirmed it is investigating, which include the fact that “some supporters in the stands [were] wearing the poppy.”

In a statement, chief executive Jonathan Ford said: “Naturally we are disappointed and surprised. Our intention was to show respect on Armistice weekend, which we feel we did in the right and proper way.

”We also adhered to the rules and regulations of the competition and the communication from FIFA prohibiting the FAW request for the players to wear the poppy symbol on the armbands or the field of play.

 “We are particularly disappointed that one of the charges relates to supporters in the stands wearing poppies. We will strongly contest the charges.”

FIFA announced the move despite the Irish FA and the Football Association of Wales agreeing that their players would not wear poppies, unlike England and Scotland who defied the FIFA ruling with poppies on black armbands in their meeting at Wembley.

World football’s governing body has already confirmed that its disciplinary committee is also investigating almost every aspect of what the Football Association and Scottish Football Association did to mark the Armistice Day match between the two sides at Wembley.

Northern Ireland and Wales wore plain black armbands but have still fallen foul of FIFA rule 4.4 concerning political, religious or commercial messages.

An Irish FA spokesman said: “The Irish Football Association will robustly defend the disciplinary charges that have been levelled against it by FIFA regarding acts of remembrance at the World Cup qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.”

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