A campaign by environmental activists to raise awareness of the endangered Iranian Cheetah by putting its image on the shirts of Iran’s national football team for the upcoming World Cup has been rejected by the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA).

The Iranian Football Federation has received a letter from FIFA stating that it would be a violation of Article 11 of the federation’s regulations to put an image of the cheetah on the shirts.

Environmental activists were hoping that the image of the Iranian Cheetah on the Iranian team’s shirts at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil would bring some attention to the grim fate of this endangered species and the campaign to save it. The plan was supported by Iran’s Department of the Environment, and even FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, who travelled to Iran in November, had expressed support for the department’s programs to protect the environment.

Hooman Jokar, the head of the Project to Protect the Iranian Cheetah, says now that FIFA has ruled out using the cheetah image on the players’ shirts, the activists will have to find another way to spread their message of support for this endangered species. It may be possible, he added, to put the image on other equipment used by the players.

Hooshang Nassirzadeh, an expert in the Iranian football federation’s international affairs, told IRNA that according to FIFA regulations, only two images can be sported on players’ shirts during World Cup games: the insignia of the country’s national football federation and the logo of the shirts’ manufacturers on the right-hand side. Nassirzadeh reports that Sepp Blatter sent a letter to Iranian officials after his return, and despite his commendation of efforts to protect the Iranian Cheetah, the letter states that FIFA cannot associate itself with such campaigns because it might lead to other countries formulating similar projects and calling on FIFA to support their own endangered species. Nassirzadeh maintained, however, that if FIFA agrees, Iran may still have the option of putting the image of the cheetah on the Iranian players’ bus and on T-shirts that are distributed among viewers and fans.

The Iranian cheetah is the last remnant of the Asiatic cheetah and is seriously moving toward extinction. There are currently an estimated 50 to 70 cheetahs left in Iran, which is now the cheetah’s only habitat outside of the African continent. It mostly lives in the Dasht-e Kavir Desert area, eastern regions and in parts of Kerman, Semnan, Khorasan, Yazd, Tehran and Isfahan provinces. The United Nations has put a number of programs in place in the past 12 years to protect the cheetah. After the Amur Leopard, the Asiatic cheetah is the most endangered feline in the world.