England playing behind closed doors after ban is an 'embarrassment', says Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate says England playing next month’s Nations League home match against Italy behind closed doors is “an embarrassment”.

The game at Molineux on 11 June will be held without fans in attendance after the Football Association was hit with sanctions following crowd trouble.

It came after a number of incidents at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium between the two nations in July.

The FA was fined £84,560 for “the lack of order and discipline” at the match.

Hundreds of ticketless fans got into Wembley and fought with stewards after areas around the stadium became packed hours before the evening kick-off.

Many sat in the area reserved for players’ relatives, while England defender Harry Maguire later said his father Alan suffered two suspected broken ribs before the game.

Italy won the final 3-2 on penalties to become European champions after it had finished 1-1 after extra time.

Asked if England got off leniently with a two-game ban on supporters, with one match suspended for 24 months, Southgate replied: “Well, we’re on a yellow card aren’t we?

"So we are where we are. We've got the embarrassment now of playing behind closed doors at home. Normally when you watch those things having happened abroad we're all grandstanding about how it's someone else's problem and how this country should be dealt with - and now it's us. That's not a good optic for our country."

England play four Nations League fixtures in June, with trips to Hungary and Germany followed by the visit of Italy and the return match against the Hungarians on 14 June.

The opening game at the Puskas Arena will also take place in front of an empty stadium on 4 June after the Hungarian FA was punished following racist incidents in England’s last trip to Budapest.

The matches come on the back of a domestic season which ended with a spate of high-profile pitch invasions across the country.

Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was struck by a fan in their Championship play-off tie at Nottingham Forest, while Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was involved in an altercation with a supporter in his side’s loss at Everton, and Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen was assaulted on Sunday as Manchester City followers flocked on to the pitch to celebrate their Premier League title win.

Southgate called the recent unsavoury incidents “a concern” and urged football to address the problem before it dictates changes to the match-going experience.

“There’s clearly a responsibility within football because, when it’s in our environment, we’ve got to do all we can to try to make sure it doesn’t happen,” added the England manager.

“We all recognise that, but it’s a wider problem. It’s behaviour and a reflection on where we are as a country.

“It’s a difficult time for people, we’re going to have more difficult times because of the economy and the realities of the situation we’re in.

“But we have to look at what we’re doing in terms of parenting. What are the expectations?

“How do we want to be viewed as a country because that’s manifesting itself in football at the moment and that’s not a good look. We don’t want to go back to fences up and the type of environment that created.”

England is hosting the Women’s European Championship in the summer and part of a UK and Ireland bid to stage the men’s tournament in 2028 – and Southgate fears they could be affected by further incidents of crowd trouble.

“We still want to host events,” he added. “We’ve got a Women’s Euros here this summer which should be a brilliant experience – and what we lived through last year was amazing.

“So we’re talking about something that could cost us the chance of doing those sorts of things because people will look from the outside.

“We still want to host, we still have fantastic facilities, brilliant stadiums. What we don’t want is this element of it that will distract from the good things that are there.”

Original article published 24.05.2022 on BBC Sport website.

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