England fans travelling to Naples for this week’s European Championship qualifier are growing increasingly anxious over a lack of co-operation from the Italian authorities.
Since violence erupted in the city last week between Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt fans, the FA, the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) and supporter groups have been seeking assurances that the 3,000 travelling England supporters will be safe.
But the Italian authorities have been unable to provide a ticket collection point or a location for a fan embassy, where fans with any issues can seek guidance and support from representatives from the Football Supporters’ Association.
In previous meetings the Italian authorities have tried to calm any fears about England fans travelling to Naples by insisting that the notorious hooligan element of Napoli’s support has no interest in international football.
A police car was set on fire during clashes between Eintracht fans, Napoli fans and the police
CIRO FUSCO/REX FEATURES
However, concerns have been further raised by the news that a threat made via email to the England fans’ football team, by someone claiming to represent the Napoli Ultras, has forced them to cancel a planned fixture with their Italian counterparts. “It’s fair to say some of our fans are becoming a little concerned,” one fans’ representative said.
Despite insisting it will be safe, the Italians are now asking the English authorities to communicate to fans that they need to assemble in the port area of Naples from 4pm on Thursday and take free buses to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, which is about four miles away.
As yet, though, there is a lack of clarity about how many buses are being provided and whether the same transport will be available after the game. It could yet be that the FA has to pay for extra buses.
Southgate meets Phil Foden at St George’s Park on Monday — his side face Italy in Naples on Thursday
EDDIE KEOGH/GETTY IMAGES
The FA is working closely with the UKFPU in an effort to keep fans fully updated. On Monday morning supporters were told they would be sent their tickets electronically by the Italian FA and those tickets did indeed arrive in the afternoon. Because there is no ticket collection point, fans will need to carry identification in the knowledge that their tickets will be checked by both the Italian police and the English FA upon arrival at the stadium.
Chief superintendent Colette Rose, who will lead a team of UKFPU officers in Naples, said that the dialogue with their Italian counterparts would continue. “Their view is that there is no risk to our fans but we are still seeking clarity around transport arrangements and other issues,” she said. “We will keep talking and do our best to keep supporters updated.”
It was while on buses that some Frankfurt fans were targeted last week. However, there are different routes that can be taken to Napoli’s ground and that decision will not be taken until the day of the match.
Italy v England
European Championship 2024 qualifier, group C
Thursday, 7.45pm kick-off
TV: Channel 4