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This Poppy Protest Is An Empty Gesture

03/11/2016 16:59
Diane Macdonald via Getty Images

In case you've missed it, there is a hoo-hah about football players wearing poppies when England meet Scotland in a World Cup qualifier next Friday - which also happens to be Armistice Day.

FIFA, football's governing body, bans the wearing of political symbols - which it considers the poppy to be. The English and Scottish FAs have said they don't believe the poppy to be political, and they're going to let their players wear it -although it's believed they will be on an armband rather than on their actual shirts -whatever the consequences. PM Theresa May has got involved. There's an online petition. It's a big old to-do.

And I think it's all a bit hysterical. Because as with so many things in 21st Britain, it seems to be all about being seen to do the right thing, without actually doing it. I've been having a think about what the FA could do to show respect for war veterans, instead of the players wearing a poppy on their shirt, or on an armband. In about two minutes I came up with the following ideas: they could donate all or a some of the gate receipts for the game to the British Legion, they could offer free tickets to the match to ex-servicemen and women and their families, they could give the British Legion's Poppy Appeal the chance to take over the advertising hoardings for the game for free, or they could encourage their advertisers to include a poppy on their hoarding ads. They could do a collection at half time, they could sell poppies on the concourse, they could lay a wreath before the match, have a minute's silence ahead of kick-off... so many ways to mark the occasion. And so many ways to support veterans.

Because, when it comes down to it, that's what the Poppy Appeal is for. The British Legion sells poppies - a symbol of remembrance for the fallen of the First World War - and uses the money it raises to help a new generation of armed forces veterans. Wearing a poppy is important for some, but in blunt terms, it's the cold hard cash that does the talking.

Stopping the players wearing a poppy during the match doesn't stop them donating - publicly and noisily should they wish - to the appeal. It doesn't stop the FAs making their own donations. It doesn't prevent the supporters wearing poppies. It doesn't stop the sale of poppies in the stadium. And of course it doesn't stop the players wearing poppies for the other 22 hours of Armistice Day.

Wearing a poppy is, for some, a nice gesture. But if it's done mindlessly - poppies handed out on an armband as the players wait in the tunnel, just for show, just so they can be seen to be wearing one without the accompanying donation - it's essentially an empty gesture. As empty as the outrage over the ban.

This post first appeared on http://the-take.co.uk/

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