UEFA have rejected a request from English police to consider rescheduling England’s Euro 2020 qualifier with the Czech Republic this Friday.
Mark Roberts, the national police lead officer for football, contacted UEFA about the potential change due to fears around a ‘stag-do mentality’ before the evening kick-off that would increase the likelihood of drunken behaviour from England fans in Prague.
Recent concern has surrounded England fans travelling to cities that are easily accessible and relatively inexpensive.
So while there was limited trouble during the World Cup in Russia last summer, Prague and Sofia - where England play Bulgaria on October 14th - are both locations where the anti-social behaviour recently seen in Amsterdam and Lisbon could be replicated.
The England Supporters Travel Club will have 3,731 of its members at the game in Prague, with just slightly less than that for the game against Bulgaria in Sofia. That stat, however, somewhat belies the actual number of England fans expected to travel, with roughly double that number due in Prague on Friday.
Roberts said: “I wrote to UEFA asking them to reconsider the Friday night kick-off. That’s not something we’ve been able to do. It is harder when you’re dealing with them [Uefa] and, particularly, when you’re playing away. I think it’s unfortunate because you can foresee the risk. We’d much rather prevent a situation developing than try to manage it on the night and regret it afterwards.”
“You take the high-risk game and you play that either midweek or at a time when you’re not going to encourage people with the stag-do mentality to go across and cause problems.”
The FA has also urged fans to help by self-policing one another, by distancing themselves from an anti-social behaviour and reporting it to authorities.
It comes after the FA launched their “Don’t Be That Idiot” campaign in May of this year to help prevent anti-disturbances in response to the behaviour of England fans in Portugal during the UEFA Nations League.
Despite that, the FA has also insisted that England fans are beginning to be judged on reputation, rather than actual behaviour.
Tony Conniford, the FA’s head of teams and corporate security, said: “We have to be aware that the behaviour of our fans is on UEFA’s radar all of the time and they will be monitoring what happens over this weekend.
“Whether it will affect next summer [Euro 2020 in England], I don’t know because Uefa have faith with how the police and stadiums deal with supporters in England. There are slightly different issues when we are abroad.”
England have made a perfect start to their qualifying campaign, with four wins from four and are top of Group A, despite playing a game less than everyone else in the group. The Czechs are second, three points off first, with Bulgaria bottom after five games and without a win.
Anyone witnessing anti-social behaviour before, during or after matches, can report it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling or texting +447970146250.
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