Gareth Southgate to sit down with England players to discuss racism strategy which could see Three Lions stars walk-off if they suffer abuse
- Abuse was directed at England’s black players in Montenegro last March
- Gareth Southgate wants his squad to be clear of UEFA protocol for matches
- England could leave the pitch if players are racially abused in future games
Gareth Southgate will sit down with his England players this week to discuss their strategy against racism, which could result in an England team leaving the pitch if players are racially abused in the future.
Following the abuse directed at England’s black players in Montenegro last March, when Southgate admits both he and his players were taken by surprise, the England manager wants his squad to be clear of the UEFA protocol for forthcoming matches.
England face Czech Republic on Friday followed by Bulgaria a week on Monday, and the FA have stressed that the meeting over protocol has arisen because of the incident in Montenegro, not because they are travelling to Sofia, where England players were racially abused in 2011.
Abuse was directed at England’s black players in Montenegro, including at Raheem Sterling
Gareth Southgate will sit down with England players this week to discuss their racism strategy
But while the players have previously indicated to Southgate that they were not in favour of walking off of their own accord, the team and captain Harry Kane will be ready to liaise with the referee if there is racist chanting.
The UEFA protocol says the referee will initially stop the game and ask for a PA announcement to inform the crowd that, if racist chanting continues, the players will be taken off. If racism persists, the referee should take the players off and if necessary would abandon the game.
Southgate said: ‘We’re very clear. It was a little less clear to me in Montenegro and the incident happened so late in the game. But we’ve seen in the last few weeks a couple of games have been stopped in Italy, where the referee stopped the game and made an announcement to the crowd, a warning to the crowd.
‘The next stage of that would be the game stops, the referee takes the players off the pitch and the third step would be an abandonment of the game. That is the process. So we are very clear to all of our staff and we discuss what needs to happen, what that procedure needs to look like.
England manager wants his squad to be clear of the UEFA protocol for forthcoming matches
‘We think it’s important to pick that up with the players because we haven’t done that post Montenegro, because we had two home games last time. So we didn’t think it was relevant to them but we think it’s now a good moment to do that.
‘It will be in the early part of the week [when they speak to the players] — as far away from the game as possible and it will be dealt with calmly.
‘I know our guys really want to focus on the football and they want the stories to be about the football. That is their desire but this is clearly a serious topic, so we’ve got to make sure that we are giving it the respect it deserves.
‘In Montenegro, a couple of the players were aware of something in the first half, lots of the others weren’t. Even at the end of the game, I was very aware of what happened but there were some other people that were on the bench that didn’t even hear it, so that is probably the difficulty of the situation that night.
‘We all hope that we’re not discussing this at the end of the game. And it’s important that our players have been prepared if it were to happen.’
The games will also be the first chance to judge England fans’ conduct after widespread disorder and anti-social behaviour at the UEFA Nations League in Portugal last summer. About 3,000 England fans are expected at each game.