GARETH SOUTHGATE is “surprised” that more than 30,000 people will be able to watch England’s game “behind closed doors” in Hungary on Saturday night.
Uefa imposed a three-game ban on home games in Hungary after their supporters were guilty of racial abuse and displaying homophobic banners during last summer’s Euros.
But a loophole in the rules allowing children under the age of 14 to take part means tens of thousands of Hungarian children – with accompanying adults – will be in attendance at the Puskas Arena tonight.
There are reports the total could reach 50,000 and Three Lions boss Southgate said: “We are all surprised.
“But we invite children to our stadium, so the rules weren’t very clear to me at the beginning.
“I don’t know what the character should or shouldn’t be. So others have to deal with that, we have to make sure that we are consistent in our beliefs, the stance that we take as a team, the fact that we agree that this is unacceptable and it’s sanctions for other people administer.
“Once we impose sanctions it’s going too far anyway so education is key and hopefully the young people in the stadium will pick up on that message.”
Fifa imposed a separate one-game ban on Hungarian home fans after English players were racially abused in the Three Lions’ 4-0 World Cup qualifier win in Budapest last September.
Nevertheless, English football cannot claim the moral high ground.
England will play their forthcoming Nations League home games against Italy and Hungary behind closed doors at Molineux as punishment for the mess at last year’s Euro 2020 final.
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But there will also be children at these games, even if only between 2,000 and 3,000.
Southgate added: “I don’t know if we did it right ourselves. Because you could say behind closed doors is behind closed doors.
“What the FA recognized was that there was an opportunity to invite local football clubs and they felt that if that was possible they should seize the opportunity.
“We have a game [games] behind closed doors, costing us millions of pounds in revenue that could flow to grassroots football.
“So the reality with all of this stuff is that the people who are being penalized are the players and fans who are behaving and not the people who caused the problem.
“It’s very difficult to find a way not to do that, but it’s complicated when you look at sanctions in detail.”
On the field, Southgate will be without Phil Foden for at least Saturday’s game and Tuesday’s clash with Germany in Munich after the Manchester City star tested positive for COVID-19.
Foden’s City teammate Raheem Sterling is in doubt with a separate illness.
Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi and AC Milan centre-back Fikayo Tomori are recovering well from the troubles that brought them to camp and won’t be ready to face Hungary.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5487144/gareth-southgate-england-hungary-nations-league/ Gareth Southgate shocked with up to 50,000 fans attending England’s game behind closed doors in Hungary