British police have warned England fans travelling to the World Cup in Russia to take responsibility for their actions and be “good ambassadors”.
Failure to do so could lead to a repeat of the violence at the 2016 European Championship, when Russian hooligans targeted drunk England fans, or mass arrests by Russian police for anti-social behaviour.
The advice came from Detective Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the national lead for football policing who has been working closely with his counterparts in Russia since Euro 2016 to avoid such scenes this summer.
In an interview with LBC radio on Thursday, Roberts said: “Sometimes England fans, not because they’re hooligans, but generally on the back of too much to drink, can act in a fairly anti-social manner.
“And what we’ve seen over the years is that tends to be a catalyst for an adverse reaction from local supporters. We will try and explain to the Russian police what is actually just anti-social behaviour – that needs a low-level intervention – and what is potentially a precursor to something else.
“But supporters do have to take responsibility for their own actions and go and be good guests in the country. One of the best ways of keeping themselves safe is to behave in a way that endears them to the host and doesn’t alienate them, and be good ambassadors for the country.”
Roberts explained that he believes the Russian authorities are determined to show their country in the best light, which means any repeat of the rioting that occurred before, during and after England’s 1-1 draw with Russia in Marseille two summers ago is unlikely.
Just as England’s worst hooligans are prevented from travelling abroad by banning orders, which typically rule out up to 2,000 people, the Russians will be monitoring their own known offenders. There will also be a huge police and security presence at every game and fan zone, Roberts said.
Roberts warned that there will be variations in policing style in the different cities England fans visit but, more generally, all Russian police are likely to take a different view of behaviour British police usually turn a blind eye to.
“What fans need to be aware of though, is a Russian style of policing,” he said.
“So, whereas they may feel they can behave in a certain way – perhaps drink too much, perhaps sing some songs – that may be tolerated in the UK, or get a rather low-level policing response, in Russia it may well be a more robust response.
“There are significant penalties for violent behaviour and anti-social behaviour in Russia, and people should be aware that as well as placing themselves at greater risk of a hostile reaction from the locals, they could attract some fairly significant penalties from the Russian judicial system.
“And you probably wouldn’t want to be in a Russian prison as an English football hooligan.”
If this sounds like Roberts is urging fans to stay away, he did say he thinks the 10,000-20,000 supporters expected in Russia from England should be able to enjoy the football and the country safely, providing they behave, listen to advice and make sensible plans.
Saudi Arabia are gearing up for their first World Cup finals appearance since 2006 by sending players on loan to Spain to gain experience.
At least six players have joined Spanish clubs following an agreement between Spain’s La Liga and the Saudi federation.
Villarreal, Leganes and Levante from the top flight, alongside second division outfits Gijon, Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano, each simultaneously announced on Sunday they had signed a Saudi player.
Villarreal have taken winger Salem Al-Dawsari, attacking midfielder Yahia Al-Shehri has gone to Leganes while Levante have signed forward Fahad Al-Muwallad.
The loans come less than five months before the World Cup in Russia begins.
Saudi Arabia are in a group alongside the hosts, Uruguay and Egypt.
For the Spanish clubs, the loans are a way to gain exposure in a little-tapped market.
“With Yahia Al-Shehri’s arrival, the club has improved its squad and also gained visibility in the Arab world,” Leganes said in a statement.
Provided by AFP
Pierluigi Collina has revealed that FIFA are already instructing potential World Cup referees on how to use VAR (video assistant referees) ahead of next year’s tournament.
No decision has been made on the use of video assistant technology in Russia, with the final decision set to be made in March.
But football’s top brass offered their strongest hints yet that they are confident it will be installed for the 2018 World Cup at the Dubai International Sports Conference at the Madinat Jumeirah on Thursday.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that its implementation – across seven domestic leagues around the world so far – has been ‘very encouraging and very positive’ with only ‘fine-tuning’ needed.
And former official Collina, now the chairman of the FIFA Referees’ Committee, says that VAR tutorials are one of the governing body’s top priorities ahead of the World Cup.
“We are doing a good job as FIFA to get our referees ready,” said Collina. “There will absolutely be (special training in VAR).
“Between the beginning of the January and the start of the World Cup, there will be five seminars – once in January, two in March and two in April in different locations.
“Certainly we will be meeting more times and at more stages than the national sides. The referees will be in Russia 10 days before the kick-off.
“The next step in the IFAB (International Football Association Board) general business meeting is the changes of the rules in the game to be approved and then implemented, so there will be an assessment in mid-January and beginning of March.”
Though still in an experimental phase, VAR has had to contend with criticism during its first season of widespread use in domestic football.
There have been fan protests across the Bundesliga over inconsistent and lengthy decision-making, and Germany’s VAR chief Hellmut Krug was even accused of manipulating video footage in favour of his favourite team Schalke. Similar problems have emerged from Australia’s A-League and Italy’s Serie A.
Felix Brych, the German who refereed last season’s Champions League final, is in support of the system, though admitted there are ‘communication’ problems that need to be ironed out.
But Collina believes the system will evolve into a tool that empowers referees rather than diminishes them.
“The referee is still the final decision maker – he has to be,” said Collina. “The referee cannot be seen as someone who executes a decision taken by someone else outside the field of play.
“He knows there is a monitor by the side of play, and he goes to review the incident by himself. When it is a factual decision, like an offside, then it can be taken outside the field of play.
“But when it is a matter of interpretation, and most of the time for a referee it is, the referee must review the incident because he is taking the final decision. He cannot listen to someone from the outside saying ‘you must do this’ because there would be two kinds of problems.
“The referee would lose credibility and the player would not think he is the final decision maker.
“Second is a matter of self-confidence, because the referee feels monitored and not supported if someone is correcting him.”