England fans have been warned to be extra vigilant amid rising fears for their safety at the World Cup in Russia this summer.
Tensions between the UK and Russia increased on Wednesday when Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and confirmed no government ministers or members of the Royal Family will be attending the tournament.
In response to the crisis, the Foreign Office warned Britons visiting Russia of ‘anti-British sentiment or harassment’, while Mrs May said the Government would examine ways of protecting fans travelling to the World Cup.
Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats on Wednesday
The Foreign Office has warned England fans to be extra vigilant at the World Cup this summer
The Football Association always urges fans to follow such advice ahead of major tournaments and that position was echoed yesterday by Football Supporters’ Federation chief executive Kevin Miles.
‘It’s important fans pay attention to guidance from the Foreign Office,’ he said.
England fans were targeted by Russian football hooligans at the Euros in France in 2016 and the Foreign Office issued its latest advice in the wake of the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
‘Due to political tensions, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment in Russia,’ the Foreign Office said in a travel advisory.
‘You’re advised to be vigilant, avoid protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publicly on political developments.’
The British police have estimated 10,000 to 20,000 British football fans are expected to travel to Russia in the summer, with between 2,000 to 3,000 tickets so far sold for each of the England games.
With Gareth Southgate due to name his squad later today for this month’s friendlies against Holland and Italy, the FA finally issued a public statement on Wednesday on the escalating crisis against a backdrop of calls in some quarters for the England team to boycott the World Cup.
Russian fans targeted their English counterparts at the European Championship in France
‘The FA will continue to work closely with the UK Government and relevant authorities regarding our participation in this summer’s World Cup and the women’s World Cup qualifier in Russia,’ said the statement from Wembley.
‘Our priority for all England matches is to ensure the safety and security of the fans, players and staff. As is standard practice, we will take all travel guidance from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.’
There remains no government pressure on the FA to withdraw from the tournament as it stands, with May insisting that such a decision would be left to Wembley chiefs.
‘I’m sure they will want to be considering their position,’ she said in Prime Minister’s Questions.
There is widespread agreement in the House of Commons that a strong stance should be taken
‘Attendance at sporting events is a matter for the sporting authorities — it’s a matter for them.’
But May stated that the relationship between the two countries ‘cannot be the same’ and said ‘no ministers or members of the Royal Family will be in attendance’. Prince William is the president of the FA.
On Wednesday night FIFA were asked to offer their view on the political situation between the World Cup hosts and one of the nations participating in their tournament, but remained confident that England would travel to Russia this summer.
A FIFA spokesperson said: ‘FIFA and the local organising committee have full confidence that all 32 participating teams and football fans from around the world will make this another memorable World Cup.
‘Regarding administrative and diplomatic representation at this summer’s World Cup, it is up to each country independently to decide on their attendance.’
As it stands there is no government pressure on the FA to withdraw from the tournament
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.