England players had the full backing of the Football Association if they walked off the pitch in the face of sickening racial abuse against Hungary on Thursday night – and will continue to do so in the future.
World football’s governing body FIFA confirmed their intention to launch an official investigation into the scenes that saw England’s black footballers targeted with monkey chants by home supporters in Budapest.
England players (above) had the full backing of the Football Association if they walked off the pitch in the face of sickening racial abuse against Hungary on Thursday night
And Sportsmail can disclose:
- That FA chiefs would have fully supported the players walking off – and taken any resulting sanctions on the chin
- Anti-racism organisation FARE had spotters in the crowd and have evidence of the alleged racial abuse
- That Boris Johnson’s condemnation of the racial abuse has been received with a sense of confusion from inside the England camp given the Government’s failure to back the team’s stance of taking the knee during the Euros
- There is a growing feeling within the FA that sanctions for discriminatory behaviour should be applicable for both FIFA and UEFA competitions given Hungary already have an outstanding stadium ban to serve from the Euros.
FIFA have launched a probe into a number of vile incidents during England’s win in Hungary (pictured: Raheem Sterling being targeted by cups after opening the scoring)
If players are subjected to sustained racial abuse during a match, officials can halt proceedings and take both teams off the field of play.
When England players suffered racial abuse in Bulgaria in 2019, UEFA’s three-step protocol was implemented in an attempt to stop the taunts directed at Gareth Southgate’s players – but in the end neither team exited the pitch.
However, Sportsmail understands that FA chiefs were fully prepared for the scenario of England’s players, led by captain Harry Kane, taking the decision to walk off the field in Hungary on Thursday night.
Doing so without permission of the referee could have resulted in hefty sanctions for the FA. Nevertheless, it was a situation the FA were prepared to deal with if England’s players felt they needed to make a stand.
Winger Sterling was subjected to monkey chants by sections of the home crowd in Budapest
Racial chants were also directed at teen Jude Bellingham while he warmed up during the game
The FA’s stance is greatly encouraging, particularly with Wednesday’s trip to Poland on the horizon, where there are concerns English players could be greeted with similar behaviour.
The FA have played a lead role in English football’s drive for equality in recent years.
The governing body’s elite coaching placement programme, which was pioneered by the FA’s inclusion advisory chair Paul Elliott – who also played a lead role in introducing the FA’s historic Leadership Diversity Code, paved the way for Chris Powell and Paul Nevin to become key members of the England senior team’s coach staff.
Powell and Nevin were on the bench in Budapest.
Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were both targeted with monkey chants during the game, while England’s starting XI were roundly booed for taking the knee before kick-off.
England’s players all took the knee before kick-off, a gesture which was greeted with hostility
Manager Gareth Southgate and his coaching staff are pictured also taking the knee pitchside
However, there was a sense emanating out of the England dressing room on Friday that a number of players did not hear the abuse during game.
England boss Southgate kept his players in the dressing room for a longer period than usual to ascertain which players had heard the abuse.
Nevertheless, the concern that many players were oblivious is unlikely to prevent FIFA from conducting a thorough investigation.
Indeed, anti-racism network FARE are understood to have had spotters in the stadium and have footage to support claims players were racially abused.
Likewise, numerous broadcasters and photographers who were pitchside are also understood to have witnessed the taunts.
Organisation FARE had spotters in the crowd and have evidence of the alleged racial abuse
In addition to the racist element, fans threw missiles – including coins – onto the pitch.
Thursday’s disgraceful scenes was roundly condemned on Friday with the PFA and Kick It Out both releasing statements.
Similarly, Prime Minister Johnson wrote on Twitter on Friday: ‘It is completely unacceptable that England players were racially abused in Hungary last night.
‘I urge Fifa to take strong action against those responsible to ensure that this kind of disgraceful behaviour is eradicated from the game for good.’
However, it is understood that a number of England players believe Johnson’s comments are hypocritical given his Government’s stance on the team’s decision to take the knee during the European Championships.
Johnson refused to condemn supporters who booed England players for taking the knee ahead of the tournament, while home secretary Priti Patel said: ‘I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture.’
Boris Johnson’s condemnation of the racial abuse has been received with a sense of confusion from inside the England camp given the Government’s failure to back their stance at Euro 2020
Indeed, Johnson’s tweet did not go unnoticed within the England camp on Friday.
The fact Hungary had already been hit with a UEFA stadium ban, but were still able to play their World Cup qualifier against England in front of supporters was being heavily questioned on Friday.
Hungary were hit with a two game stadium ban by UEFA for the discriminatory behaviour of their fans during the Euros – but because the World Cup is a FIFA competition the sanction was not enforced on Thursday night.
However, both governing body’s were privately passing the buck on Friday; UEFA insisting it was not in their jurisdiction to apply a ban during a FIFA competition.
FIFA, in contrast, believed their counterparts did have the power to close the stadium to fans.
And there was a feeling emerging on Friday that there should be greater alignment on such issues, particularly ones as important as racial abuse, from both organisations with the issue likely to be discussed by the FA in the coming weeks.