England support at World Cup ‘lowest for 30 years’

The number of England supporters at the World Cup could be at its lowest level for 30 years, according to a leading supporters group.

The low fan turnout is due to “disproportionate hype” about the threat of hooliganism and political tensions with Russia, the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) said.

“Never before has the disparity between the picture painted of what was likely to befall us and the reality we actually encountered been as great as what we experienced in Volgograd,” the FSF said in a blog post.

Fans reported feeling outnumbered in the city, site of England’s 2-1 win against Tunisia on Monday, with around 4,000 empty seats in the stadium.

It comes amid the strained ties between the UK and Russian governments following the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March.

© Getty Kane nodded home at the back post in the 91st minute

MPs also raised concerns of a repeat of the violence seen in Marseille before and after England’s match against Russia at Euro 2016.

But the FSF such “dire warnings” had yet to become a reality.

“Over the years, regular travellers with England have had good reason to become sceptical about some of the dire warnings about the fate that could befall us at the next tournament,” it said.

“If all we were told had been true, we would have been murdered in townships in South Africa, beaten up by racist hooligans in Ukraine or robbed at gunpoint in Brazilian favelas.

© Getty LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 02: England supporters wave flags during the International Friendly between England and Nigeria at Wembley Stadium on June 2, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by James Baylis – AMA/Getty Images)

“It turns out that a little bit of common sense and preparation has generally been enough to keep us safe.”

The FSF added: “The big majority of Russian people have been immensely friendly, generous and welcoming.

“England fans above all should know from bitter experience the price that can be paid for judging everybody on the behaviour of a minority.”

As well as fears about violence, the supporters’ group also cited the long distances, high costs and unlikely holiday feel to many host cities as factors stopping fans from travelling.

© Getty England supporters unveil a huge three lions flag in the crowd ahead of the International friendly football match between England and Italy at Wembley stadium in London on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

“The only sad thing about the whole experience is that the numbers of England fans who have been here to enjoy it have been so low,” the FSF said.

“We reckon it’s been probably the lowest number of England fans at a World Cup game for 30 years.”

The FSF added that Russia was not a “traditional” family holiday destination.

“We know there are a lot of other reasons why a lot of people have chosen to support the team from back home – there’s the distances, the cost of travel, the inescapable fact that Russia isn’t really a traditional family holiday destination.

© Getty England supporters wave a flag during the athletic’s event during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

“It’s nonetheless a shame that some fans have been deterred from coming here because of disproportionate hype about the hooligan threat or political tensions,” it continued.

As more England fans are at home for this World Cup, it was reported that more than 21 million people across the UK tuned in to see the Three Lions beat Tunisia.

The numbers eclipsed the viewing figures for last month’s royal wedding, which saw 13.1 million tuning in to see Prince Harry and Meghan’s big day.
SOURCE: News.sky.com
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