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England and Scotland to face FIFA sanctions over wearing poppies

In this Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 file photo, a poppy is displayed on a big screen for Armistice Day before the international friendly soccer match between England and Spain at Wembley Stadium in London. England and Scotland will face FIFA sanctions after insisting their players will wear black armbands with embroidered poppies to honor Britain's war dead for a match between the neighbors. England and Scotland will meet for a World Cup qualifier on Nov. 11, 2016,.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

England and Scotland will face FIFA sanctions after insisting their players will wear black armbands with embroidered poppies to honour Britain's war dead for a match between the neighbours.

England and Scotland will meet for a World Cup qualifier on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day, when Commonwealth forces who have died on duty since World War I are honoured.

Both associations asked FIFA to let their players wear the commemorative poppies somewhere on their jerseys, but that would breach rules banning political, religious, personal or commercial messages on official uniforms and equipment. Granting an exemption for England and Scotland would create a political minefield, according to soccer's governing body.

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Read more: UK Prime Minister Theresa May calls FIFA poppy ban 'utterly outrageous'

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said Wednesday that she had already been approached by other member associations asking for "similar exceptions" and the "response has been the same: We have to apply uniformly and across the 211 member associations the laws of the game."

"You could make many exceptions," Samoura, a Senegalese, added on the BBC. "Britain is not the only country that has been suffering from the result of war. Syria is an example. My own continent has been torn by war for years. And the only question is why are we doing exceptions for just one country and not the rest of the world?"

Canada plays a friendly at South Korea on Remembrance Day, but will adhere to FIFA rules.

"FIFA's regulations are very clear about this situation as it relates to a number of different levels of political interest, and certain we will follow any rules and regulations that are set out by them, and obviously by our governing body," said Canada's interim coach Michael Findlay. "As it relates to Remembrance Day, we actually have trained and played on previous Remembrance Days, and we always as a team take that moment at the appropriate part of the day, to remember the fallen, and we will do that in Korea as a group."

In separate statements, the English and Scottish Football Associations both insisted that the "poppy is an important symbol of remembrance and we do not believe it represents a political, religious or commercial message, nor does it relate to any one historical event."

The associations added that they intend to "pay appropriate tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by having the ... team wear black armbands bearing poppies" in the fixture.

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A FIFA compromise in 2011 allowed England players to wear the poppy on black armbands for a friendly game against Spain. Since then, the FIFA leadership has completely changed.

England and Scotland are unlikely to face a points deduction in their World Cup qualifying group, with a fine more probable.

"It is not really my ambition to punish anybody," Samoura said at Wembley ahead of a meeting of the International Football Association Board, which features the English and Scottish FAs. "They just have to recognize themselves that they are part of the rules of the game and they should be ready to face any kind of sanctions or measures against. They know better than me because they made the law."

The dispute spread to the House of Commons on Wednesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May condemning FIFA's ban as "utterly outrageous."

"Our football players want to recognize and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security," May said. "I think it is absolutely right that they should be able to do so."

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