Do FIFA political rules change over time?

Over the years, FIFA has objected to players, teams and fans engaging in protests or slogans, but it seems global footballThe governing body may now be willing to tolerate a blurring of the line it once drew between politics and sport.

Norway national team players wore T-shirts declaring ‘Human rights – on and off the pitch’ as ​​they lined up ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar on Wednesday , and the next day Germany made a similar protest ahead of their qualifying game against Iceland in Duisburg. .

In both cases, the players made it clear that the protests were aimed at Qatar. The Gulf state hosts the 2022 World Cup final and has faced allegations, which it has denied, of mistreatment and lack of rights for migrant workers.

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These actions, in the recent past, would almost certainly have resulted in disciplinary proceedings and possibly fines from FIFA, but the world footballThe governing body of said no action would be taken.

Over the years, FIFA has opposed political protests or slogans during matches or in stadiums.

Regulations restricting the display of slogans on shirts or underwear are contained in Law 4 of the Laws of the Game, but broader regulations on political gestures are contained in the Disciplinary and Ethical Codes.

The rules, however, are less clear on what clothing is worn immediately before a game, and the position of FIFA and European governing body UEFA in general has evolved over time.

Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler was fined by UEFA in 1997 for displaying a T-shirt supporting the sacked local dockers after scoring in a Cup Winners’ Cup match.

In 2013, Croatian defender Josip Simunic was banned for 10 matches and missed the following year’s World Cup after shouting slogans with fans at the end of a match.

“The Disciplinary Committee took note that the player, together with the crowd, shouted a Croatian salute which was used during World War II by the fascist ‘Ustasas’ movement,” FIFA said.

In July 2014, FIFA fined the Argentine FA CHF 30,000 ($31,887) after players stood behind a banner bearing the slogan “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” (“The Falklands are Argentinian”) on the pitch before a friendly victory in Buenos Aires against Slovenia the previous day. month.

General prohibition

Responding to a number of cases of players lifting their shirts to reveal slogans, often innocuous messages such as birthday wishes, the IFAB, FIFA’s legislative body, passed a blanket ban.

“Determining what’s right and wrong between different countries and cultures is very complicated, so it’s easier to say it has no place in the game,” said Jonathan Ford, a member of the board of directors. Welsh FA’s IFAB.

The problem returned, however, in 2016 when FIFA fined England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for their use of the poppy to commemorate Armistice Day. considering it as a political symbol.

The Football Association of Ireland has also been fined for displaying a ‘political symbol’ on a badge commemorating the 100th anniversary of an uprising against British rule.

Following criticism of the poppy ruling, FIFA changed the wording of its player clothing laws to allow the poppy or similar “permitted slogans, statements or images” if opposing teams and the competition organizer were agree in advance.

Nevertheless, while the wording of FIFA’s regulations remains open to subjective interpretation, as does the concept of what is political, slogans have tended to be limited to official campaigns, such as the FIFA’s “Respect” campaign. UEFA against discrimination.

FIFA fined and reprimanded the Qatar Football Federation in 2017 after its players warmed up for the match wearing t-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show him their support.

FIFA’s position changed further last year when in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by police in the United States, some German Bundesliga players displayed slogans supporting the movement to protest.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the players deserved “applause not punishment”.

English Premier League players ‘took the knee’ in support of the move, before games last year and last season wore Black Lives Matter logos on their sleeves – a gesture backed by league authorities and soccer.

FIFA took a similar line this week when responding to Norway’s protests against Qatar.

“FIFA believes in freedom of expression and the power of football as a force for good,” it said in a statement.

“No disciplinary proceedings regarding this matter will be initiated by FIFA.”

($1 = 0.9408 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Simon Evans Editing by Toby Davis)

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