Fifa poppy fines leave Royal British Legion 'extremely disappointed'

The Royal British Legion (RBL) has said it is "extremely disappointed" at Fifa's decision to fine the home nations over the poppy row.

Football's world governing body has handed the English Football Association (FA) the largest punishment, ordering it to pay 45,000 Swiss francs (£35,308) for several incidents including players wearing poppies on armbands during a World Cup qualifier against Scotland last month.

The Scottish FA and the FA of Wales were fined 20,000 Swiss francs (£15,692), while the Irish FA will have to pay 15,000 Swiss francs (£11,769) because the Republic of Ireland wore shirts commemorating the Easter Rising in a friendly against Switzerland in March.

The decision to take disciplinary action by Fifa, which says its rules prohibit commercial, political or religious messages, was met with scorn by leading figures in football and the Government.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley called for the body to withdraw its threat of sanctions, which it was feared could include the docking of points from the national teams, while ahead of the game on Armistice Day, Theresa May was warned by the body not to interfere in the row, after the Prime Minister described the ban as "utterly outrageous".

Speaking after the fines were announced, the RBL's director general Charles Byrne, said: "We are extremely disappointed that Fifa continues to label the poppy a 'political symbol' and has levied fines on those football associations who chose to display it during the 2016 Remembrance period. The red poppy is a symbol of Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. It has no political, religious or commercial meaning.

"Of particular concern is Fifa's reference to spectators wearing a 'political symbol'. The poppy represents sacrifices made in the defence of freedom, and so the decision to wear it must be a matter of personal choice for both players and spectators."

Downing Street described Fifa's actions as "disappointing".

Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokeswoman said: "Fifa don't seem to have recognised the sentiment behind poppies - that they are not a political symbol, but are about recognising with pride the role that our brave servicemen and women play.

"We continue to believe that footballers and fans should be able very clearly to show their support for all that our armed forces do."

Asked whether the UK's football associations should pay the fines, the spokeswoman said that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was "looking at what happens next".