It’s time for football to ditch the poppy

The poppy has been worn on the chest of professional footballers in both Scotland and England over the past few seasons. The poppy is something that has been used to commemorate the lives lost during World War I, but it has now extended beyond that – it is now used to stand by those who choose to fight in more recent wars such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq (both of which are heavily opposed by liberal members of society). This has had a knock on effect on football – teams and football players are now speaking out against wearing it during matches played on the weekend of Remembrance Sunday.

Ireland-born midfielder, James McClean of Wigan Athletic, controversially chose not to wear a poppy in a match just days before Remembrance Sunday. People on social media described him as a ‘disgrace’ and that he should be ‘ashamed’ of his actions. DUP politican, Gary Middleton suggested that it is “disappointing that he has taken this stance. It’s unfortunate because a lot of young people would see him as a role model and certainly his latest stance is quite disrespectful.”

Like every person in the United Kingdom, they have the choice to wear one or not and James McClean is no different from that.

McClean mentioned in his open letter to Dave Whelan before kick off that he respects those who lost their lives during both World Wars, but went on to state that the poppy has went beyond remembering those people. “The poppy is used in conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me. For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and especially those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something different.”

His teammates chose to stick by the midfielder and respected his decision, despite the public’s anger at his choice not to wear one from fans and politicians.

Celtic, who’s supporters who have been extremely vocal about their team wearing the poppy on their shirt and the club decided against wearing one in their encounter against Aberdeen on earlier this month. In 2010, in an encounter against the same team, the Green Brigade displayed a banner that said “No bloodstained poppy on our hoops. Your deeds would shame all the devils in hell.” This was met with a backlash from several members of the public.

Celtic fans have had a history of speaking and singing what many have said to be ‘pro-IRA chants’ during minute’s silences to remember those in the British armed forces lost at war. In their encounter against Aberdeen this month, YouTube footage had shown that some Celtic supporters spoke out during the minute’s silence.

Neil McGarvey, a politics lecturer at Strathclyde, said, “Personally, I think Celtic were weren’t right in tackling the poppy in the way that they did. But, minute’s silences in general have been a perennial problem over the course of my lifetime.”

Despite the increasing opposition of the poppy, McGarvey believes that it can still have a place in football, but there is no doubt that there is now an element of politics tied to the poppy. People are becoming increasingly vocal with their anti-war sentiments and they believe that the poppy is used as something that encourages young working class people to risk their lives in wars that they didn’t start.

Football fans are being told regularly that politics has no place in football. After the Serbia and Albania game was postponed due to political incited trouble, UEFA President, Michel Platini, said in a statement: “Football is supposed to bring people together and our game should not be mixed with politics of any kind.”

For FIFA and various other governing bodies in football to suggest that politics has no place in football but allow an increasingly politicized poppy campaign to go ahead in football is incredibly hypocritical.


There are various ways to remember the lives lost in World War I, but football now needs to take a step back from the debate before it becomes more volatile in the terraces.} else {