England manager Gareth Southgate said he hoped Saturday’s Nations League opener against Hungary in Budapest would serve as a learning curve for fans in the stadium, who will be allowed to attend despite a spectator ban due to racist behaviour.
Hungary were ordered to play five games behind closed doors after being disciplined by both FIFA and UEFA for repeated discriminatory behaviour, but the Hungarian FA said last month children will attend Saturday’s match at the Puskas Arena.
Under Article 73 of UEFA’s disciplinary regulations, children up to the age of 14 from schools and/or football academies can be invited to a match free of charge, provided they are accompanied by an adult.
England’s FA will also use the same regulation when they take on Italy in Wolverhampton next Saturday after being ordered to play two home games in UEFA competition without fans due to crowd trouble during the Euro 2020 final.
“It is a little bit of a grey area. We are inviting children into Molineux as well. Players want to play in front of full stadia, but whether that is appropriate is for UEFA to decide,” Southgate told reporters on Friday.
“I imagine Hungary will have the same feelings about restrictions on their home games as us – they won’t want it to happen again… We’ve shown how we feel about these issues, in terms of racism and it’s unacceptability.
“Hopefully the young people in the stadium will recognise why this opportunity has happened and in some ways maybe this will be part of the education for the next generation… All being well, the young people will enjoy the game and take a bigger message from it.”
England’s players were subjected to racist abuse the last time they played at the Puskas Arena during a World Cup qualifier in September, which Southgate’s side won 4-0.
Captain Harry Kane said England would aim to produce a positive result regardless of the circumstances.
“We put in a fantastic performance that night in a really tough environment,” Kane said. “The way the players responded during that game was a credit to themselves… It’s down to UEFA to decide what they see fit as the punishment.”
Southgate added England will be without Phil Foden for the Hungary clash and next week’s trip to Germany after the Manchester City midfielder tested positive for COVID-19.
Defenders Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi will also miss Saturday’s game through injury, while Raheem Sterling is a doubt after missing some training sessions.