England manager Gareth Southgate has once again called on the country to get its own house in order before questioning the ban handed down to Hungary following racist abuse during Euro 2020.
Hungary will play their next two UEFA-organised home matches behind closed doors after being charged with racist and homophobic offences by the governing body, with a third game suspended, following abuse from the stands during Euro 2020.
The supporter ban does not cover Thursday’s clash against England, though, with World Cup qualifiers played under FIFA jurisdiction, and the Puskas Arena is set to have more than 60,000 home fans in attendance as England’s followers have not been able to make the journey.
Some have queried the logic in not enforcing a blanket ban, but Southgate believes clamping down on the racist abuse which followed the Euro 2020 final needs more urgent attention, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all targeted online following their misses in the shoot-out defeat to Italy.
Asked if there should be a rule change to impose blanket stadium bans rather than competition-specific ones, Southgate told BBC Radio 5Live: “Well it is none of our business really.
“We’ve got our own problems, we just took part in a final where we had carnage, really.
“So I think we sort ourselves out first, we’re prepared for what comes in Hungary but our players experienced difficult things, players families experienced difficult things in the final.
“So, I never like it when we look outside when we’ve not got our own house in order.
“I’m always respectful when I’m travelling away to a foreign country of showing the hosts respect and an understanding that these things can happen, it’s happened in our own country around the final.
“So, I never like it when we’re always jumping on to what happens abroad when we’ve still got so much ground and distance to make up ourselves.”
Southgate’s players were also on the receiving end of racial abuse during Euro 2020 qualifiers away to Montenegro and Bulgaria.
As well as the abuse of Rashford, Sancho and Saka, UEFA opened investigations into security breaches during the Euro 2020 final.
Charges of disturbances caused during the national anthems, invasion of the pitch, the throwing of objects and the lighting of a firework by fans were brought against the Football Association – while some supporters were shown storming security barriers to gain access to Wembley.
Southgate believes such actions could leave England facing the prospect of playing some of their future games in an empty stadium.
“We still don’t know what the outcome of the investigation into our final is going to be and maybe we end up with a stadium ban,” he said.
“Whilst we are always vigilant in preparing our team for whatever they may face, all of the issues you talk about very important ones, I have always been brought up that when I’m a guest somewhere I’m respectful of that, show that due respect, and that’s as I’d want to be treated if people were travelling to our country.
“The players understand the seriousness of the matters you talking about but I think we have a long way to go ourselves before we start comment or pre-empt what might happen in a game somewhere else.”
The Three Lions contemplated leaving the pitch in Sofia before eventually finishing the game – but Southgate said it was dangerous to discuss whether they would walk off if abused on Thursday night, backing his players to deal with the intensity of playing in Budapest.
“I don’t think we should speak hypothetically,” he said.
“I think we know the experience we had before but we are going to Hungary preparing for a game in front of a crowd who will get behind their team and we are looking forward to the challenge of the match. Everything else is speculation.
“We of course have talked to the players about a different atmosphere because we were at home all the way through the summer apart from the one game in Rome but that is the test as a top player.
“You’ve got to go into these stadiums with opposition fans and show the resilience and the fortitude to be able to play and control the game.
“All of our players are playing in big matches most weeks where they face that sort of challenge. A lot of them are playing in European football. We’ve got experienced players in this side now so it’s nothing they haven’t faced in the past.”
As one of the senior international players among Southgate’s ranks, Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire, said it would be “unfair” to talk about a reaction to any possible racism before the game takes place.
“Like Gareth said, we speak about different scenarios going into every game, not just Hungary away,” the defender said.
“Every away game we play, we speak about different scenarios that can happen and I think just speaking about something in the future that just might happen is a bit unfair.
“Us as players now are fully focused on playing in front of a full crowd in front of a great atmosphere against a team which have proved they are more than capable at the Euros.
“So we are expecting a tough test and we are more focused on the game and the performance and trying to get the three points to (help) qualify for Qatar.”
Southgate confirmed Maguire’s club-mate Sancho will undergo a fitness assessment ahead of the game in Hungary after picking up a minor knock in training.
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