COMMENT

SO common sense finally prevailed in the battle for England’s footballers to sport poppies on their shirts. The big question is: what on earth took so long?

Poppies embroidered on black armbands was mooted days ago and has seemed the most sensible solution to this thorny issue ever since.

England get to make the one-off gesture that they were seeking, while Fifa gets to preserve the apparent sanctity of its rules on shirt adornments.

We may never know exactly what caused Sepp Blatter, the world governing body’s president, to relax his organisation’s intransigence and agree a compromise.

Days of increasingly outraged media coverage decrying Fifa’s stance showed little sign of weakening his resolve.

Pleas from one of his own vice-presidents, the Northern Irishman Jim Boyce, for Blatter to treat this as a special case, appeared to fall on deaf ears.

So what made him crack? Perhaps it was correspondence from Prince William, although last year’s failed World Cup bid did little to cement his influence at Fifa.

Did the unexpected presence of far-right protesters on the roof of Fifa’s HQ sway him? Or perhaps it was a call from ally and ethical sounding board Placido Domingo?

Either way the protracted wrangling did Fifa’s already sullied image few favours – unlike the Football Association, for whom this is a welcome change of fortune.

For weeks the FA has been drowning in negative publicity over England captain John Terry’s investigation for alleged racial abuse, which he denies.

Now it has a victory to celebrate, and one in which the national governing body has demonstrably carried the fight for a cause far greater than mere self-preservation.