October 19 – English hopes of staging the World Cup in 2030 have been dealt a potentially damaging blow after UEFA slapped a stadium ban on the country following the disgraceful scenes that marred the Euro 2020 final against Italy.
Scores of ticketless fans rampaged through Wembley, where England played six out of seven matches on their way to the final in July, and clashed with stewards and police, with 19 police officers injured as security cordons were breached at what was the country’s biggest game since the 1966 World Cup final.
An estimated 250,000 fans were on the periphery of the stadium before kick-off, with thousands involved in anti-social behaviour, many fuelled by alcohol.
Inside the stadium, the Italian national anthem was booed by England supporters despite manager Gareth Southgate asking fans to desist from the disrespectful behaviour.
The entire incident shamed the country and UEFA, which had given England a large chunk of the one-off pan-European finals, have responded by imposing a one-match stadium ban with a second suspended for two years – plus a fine of €100,000 for the English FA.
The ban, the first time England have been forced to play a game behind closed doors because of their own fans’ behaviour, will cost the FA upwards of £2.5million in lost matchday revenue.
The ruling was met with disappointment but some observers will feel the punishment could have been even stronger.
“Although we are disappointed with the verdict, we acknowledge the outcome of this UEFA decision,” said an FA spokesman. “We condemn the terrible behaviour of the individuals who caused the disgraceful scenes in and around Wembley Stadium at the Euro 2020 final, and we deeply regret some of them were able to enter the stadium. We are determined that this can never be repeated, so we have commissioned an independent review … to report on the circumstances involved.”
England now face the ignominy of playing without fans at the start of the next Nations League in June against any one of a number of opponents including France, Spain, Italy or Belgium.
The bigger picture could prove catastrophic in terms of a joint UK-Republic of Ireland 2030 World Cup bid.
A feasibility study is ongoing but a Spain-Portugal bid is also on the table from Europe and it is now strongly rumoured that a joint Iberian bid, which missed out on the 2018 World Cup, is likely to be supported by the UEFA hierarchy.
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