FA chief says poppy is not divisive - but Pep’s yellow ribbon is
Despite stance of James McClean and others, English FA chief refuses to compare poppy
Pep Guardiola and his assistant Manuel Estiarte after the Carabao Cup final. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Offside/Getty Images
Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn is adamant Pep Guardiola is displaying a political symbol by choosing to wear a yellow ribbon. But he has claimed the poppy is neither political or divisive.
The Manchester City manager has until 6pm on Monday to respond to an FA charge relating to the ribbon, which he wears in support of two political leaders who were imprisoned following Catalonia’s independence referendum in October. He believes they are political prisoners, being punished for their political beliefs.
That referendum was declared illegal by Spain and Guardiola, one of Catalonia’s favourite and most famous sons, has worn the ribbon since and says it is for “humanity” and democracy.
But quoted in several national newspapers, Glenn says comparisons cannot be made with sides choosing to display a poppy on their shirt to commemorate Armistice Day. The FA has charged Guardiola with “wearing a political message”.
“We have rewritten Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK but things that are going to be highly divisive are not,” Glenn said. This despite instances such as the drama surrounding Irish international James McClean’s refusal to wear a poppy in recent seasons. McClean says that being from Derry, the poppy stands as a reminder of Bloody Sunday and the painful presence of British soldiers at that time. His stance has seen him receive death threats and regular fan abuse.
“That could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like Robert Mugabe on your shirt — these are the things we don’t want.
“To be honest, and to be very clear, Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon is a political symbol, it’s a symbol of Catalan independence and I can tell you there are many more Spaniards, non-Catalans, who are p****d off by it. All we are doing is even-handedly applying the laws of the game.
“Poppies are not political symbols; that yellow ribbon is. Where do you draw the line, should we have someone with a Ukip badge? Someone with an Isis badge? That’s why you have to be pretty tough that local, regional, national party organisations cannot use football shirts to represent them.”