England boss Gareth Southgate admits recent fan behaviour is a concern

·3 min read

Gareth Southgate admits recent fan behaviour is a concern but is wary any message he sends to England supporters ahead of their Nations League fixture in Germany will fall on deaf ears.

The Three Lions face Hungary in their Group A3 opener on June 4, a game which takes place behind closed doors after a number of racist incidents marred England’s last trip to Budapest.

Southgate then takes his players to Munich just three days later, with reports of a large travelling band of away supporters also making the trip.

The games come on the back of a domestic season which ended with a spate of high-profile pitch invasions across the country.

Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was struck by a Nottingham Forest fan, while Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was in an altercation with an Everton supporter, and Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen was mobbed as Manchester City followers flocked onto the pitch to celebrate their Premier League title win.

Southgate feels the incidents are systemic of growing issues within society but has called on football to address the problem before it dictates changes to the match-going experience.

“It is a concern,” he said after naming his squad for the quartet of Nations League games.

“There’s clearly a responsibility within football because when it is in our environment, we have got to do all we can to try and make sure it doesn’t happen.

“I think we all recognise that. But it’s a wider problem. It is behaviour and a reflection on where we are as a country at the moment. It is a difficult time for people, we are going to have more difficult times because of the economy and the realities of the situation we are in.

England boss Gareth Southgate
England boss Gareth Southgate (Martin Rickett/PA)

“But we have to look at what we’re doing in terms of parenting, everything really. What are the expectations? How do we want to be viewed as country because that’s manifesting itself in football at the moment and that’s not a good look. We don’t want to go back to fences up and the type of environment that created.

“So I’m really positive we don’t want to step back. But football reflects society so it would be easy for some people to just put it on football, but that’s not the reality of it. I repeat: football has got a responsibility, we have to do our bit and we have to get that right.

“But what happened here before our (Euro 2020) final, that wasn’t just football supporters. That was people unable to behave, unable to control themselves when consuming alcohol so there are many, many broader parts to it.”

With no fans inside the Puskas Arena, the appetite for supporters to travel to Munich for the June 7 fixture is likely to be heightened.

Asked if he had a message to fans heading to Germany, Southgate replied: “Well, I doubt they’d listen to it really because we are always sitting, giving those messages but frankly if people are going to cause trouble, it is not going to make a jot of difference what I say about it.

“I just think we’re representing the country, so is everybody that travels. We should be good ambassadors for our country and leave a good impression.

“Thousands of football fans every year do that and are welcomed back and are greeted warmly by people all around Europe when they travel.

“So, I think everybody that leaves this country, goes on holiday or goes to watch football matches has that same opportunity and responsibility.”

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