England playing behind closed doors after ban is ’embarrassing’, says Gareth Southgate

Football bears responsibility – Southgate on pitch invasions and violence

Gareth Southgate says England playing next month’s Nations League home game against Italy behind closed doors is “embarrassing”.

The game in Molineux on 11 June will be played without fans present after sanctions were imposed by the Football Association following crowd problems.

It came after a series of incidents at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium between the two nations in July.

The FA were fined £84,560 for “the lack of order and discipline” in the game.

Hundreds of ticketless supporters descended on Wembley and tussled with stewards after areas around the stadium were crowded hours before the evening’s kick-off.

Many sat in the area reserved for the players’ families, while England defender Harry Maguire later said his father Alan suffered two suspected broken ribs before the game.

Italy won the final 3-2 on penalties and became European champions after a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Asked if England had gotten lenient with a two-game ban for fans, with one game suspended for 24 months, Southgate replied: “Well we’ve got a yellow card, haven’t we?

“So we are where we are. We now have the embarrassment of playing behind closed doors at home.

“Usually when you see these things happening abroad we all get cocky about it being someone else’s problem and how this country should be dealt with – and now we are. This is not good optics for our country.”

England hosted eight games during Euro 2020 last summer

England play four Nations League games in June, followed by away games in Hungary and Germany, followed by the visit to Italy and the second leg against Hungary on June 14.

The opening game at the Puskas Arena will also be played in front of an empty stadium on June 4 after the Hungarian FA were fined following racist incidents during England’s last visit to Budapest.

The games come on the heels of a domestic season that ended in a spate of high-profile pitch invasions across the country.

Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was hit by a fan in the Championship play-offs at Nottingham Forest while Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was involved in an altercation with a supporter in his side’s defeat at Everton and Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen was attacked on Sunday as Manchester City supporters took to the pitch to celebrate their Premier League title win.

Southgate called the recent unsavory incidents “concerning” and urged football to address the issue before mandating changes to the game experience.

“There is clearly a responsibility within football because if it happens around us we have to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen,” added the England manager.

“We all acknowledge that, but it’s a broader problem. It’s behavior and a reflection of where we are as a country.

“It is a difficult time for people, we will have even more difficult times due to the economy and the reality of the situation we are in.

“But we have to look at what we’re doing in terms of parenting. What are the expectations?

“How do we want to be perceived as a country, because that’s manifesting itself in football at the moment and it’s not looking good.

England are hosting the European Women’s Championship in the summer and are part of a bid by Britain and Ireland to host the men’s tournament in 2028 – and Southgate fears they could be hit by further incidents of crowd problems.

“We still want to host events,” he added. “We have a European Women’s Championship here this summer, which should be a brilliant experience – and what we experienced last year was amazing.

“So we’re talking about something that could cost us a chance to do things like that because people will be looking from the outside.

“We still want to host, we still have fantastic facilities, brilliant stadiums. What we don’t want is that element that will distract from the good things that are out there.”


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