England will not be allowed to wear poppies on their shirts for Saturday's friendly against Spain after Fifa rejected a second request from the Football Association for what the world governing body termed "embroidery on the match shirt".
Fifa issued a "final statement" last night in response to a letter sent on Monday from Alex Horne, the FA's general secretary, appealing against the ban. The world governing body said that it would "jeopardise the neutrality of football". The decision came despite the sports minister, Hugh Robertson, also asking Fifa to reconsider their decision yesterday afternoon.
The Fifa statement to the FA read: "We regret to inform you that accepting such initiatives would open the door to similar initiatives from all over the world, jeopardising the neutrality of football. Therefore, we confirm herewith that the suggested embroidery on the match shirt cannot be authorised. There are a variety of options where the FA can continue supporting the cause of Remembrance. One of them already was approved by Fifa, the Period of Silence."
Robertson, a former soldier, wrote to Jérôme Valcke, Fifa's general secretary, suggesting the rules should be relaxed on this occasion for England and Wales. Robertson said: "We fully understand, and respect, Fifa's rules on its member nations not adorning their shirts with 'commercial', 'political', or 'religious' symbols or messages. The FA and FAW [Football Association of Wales] do not intend to contravene these rules.
"However, the British public feel very strongly about this issue which is seen as an act of national remembrance to commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of their country. It is not religious or political in any way. Wearing a poppy is a display of national pride, just like wearing your country's football shirt."
England's stance was also supported by Jim Boyce, the Northern Irishman who is the home nations' representative on Fifa's Executive Committee. Boyce said: "I do understand there have to be rules but as this is a special request from a member of Fifa and is not of a political nature I believe that common sense should prevail and that it should be looked at in a different light."
Damian Collins, a Conservative MP and a member of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, suggested England should wear poppies with or without Fifa's permission, but that is a path the FA will not go down.