GARETH SOUTHGATE is “surprised” more than 30,000 people will be allowed to attend England’s “behind-closed-doors” game in Hungary on Saturday night.
Uefa imposed a three-game ban on Hungary home matches after their supporters were guilty of racial abuse and displaying homophobic banners during last summer’s Euros.
England boss Gareth Southgate is shocked that there will be fans in attendance in HungaryCredit: Reuters
Hungary’s Puskas Arena will host around 50,000 fans against EnglandCredit: Getty
But a loophole in the rules that permits children under-14 to attend means tens of thousands of Hungarian kids – with accompanying adults – will be present this evening in the Puskas Arena.
There are reports the total crowd could reach 50,000 and Three Lions boss Southgate said: “We’re all surprised.
“But we’re inviting children into our stadium so I wasn’t really clear on the rules of any of it at the start of all this.
“I don’t know what the figure should be or shouldn’t be. So other people have got to deal with that, we’ve got to make sure we’re consistent in our beliefs, the stand we take as a team, the fact we’re united on it being unacceptable, and it’s for other people to administer sanctions.
“Once we’re administering sanctions it’s gone too far anyway, so the key is education and the young people in the stadium hopefully pick that message up.”
Fifa imposed a separate one-game ban on Hungary home fans after England players were racially abused during the Three Lions’ 4-0 win in last September’s World Cup qualifier in Budapest.
Yet English football cannot claim the moral high ground.
England will play their forthcoming home games in the Nations League against Italy and Hungary behind closed doors at Molineux as punishment for the disorder at last year’s Euro 2020 Final.
But there will be children at those games, too, albeit only between 2,000 and 3,000.
Southgate added: “I don’t know whether we’ve got it right ourselves. Because you could say behind closed doors is behind closed doors.
“What the FA recognised was that there was an opportunity to invite local football clubs in so they felt if that was possible they should take that opportunity.
“We’ve got a game [games] behind closed doors which costs us millions of pounds in revenue that could go into grassroots football.
“So the reality is with all these things that the people being punished are the players and supporters that behave themselves and not the people that caused the problem.
“It’s very difficult to find a way of not doing that but it is complicated when you get into the detail of sanctions.”
On the field, Southgate will be without Phil Foden for at least Saturday’s match and Tuesday’s clash with Germany in Munich after the Manchester City star tested positive for COVID-19.
Foden’s City team-mate Raheem Sterling is a doubt because of a separate illness.
Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi and AC Milan centre-back Fikayo Tomori are recovering well from the niggles they brought into camp and will not be ready to face Hungary.
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