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How things change. Time was when the name “England football supporter” meant something. Someone who could get completely drunk in a foreign city centre by lunchtime and then spend the afternoon throwing up into a fountain. Someone who could play the opening bars of The Great Escape theme tune on a trumpet for hours on end. Someone who could be guaranteed to terrify the locals wherever he went. Someone who would rip the seat out of any stadium and require a police escort back to the airport. Someone of whom the whole country could be proud.
Now, though, we’re in danger of being completely outclassed by the Russians, whose supporters included robbery and attempted murder on their CVs during the near riot in Marseille after the England v Russia game at the 2016 Euros. The persecutors have become the victims, and the foreign affairs select committee was keen to make sure any English football supporters would be safe during the World Cup in Russia.
Labour’s Chris Bryant, the MP for Rhondda, was quick to point out he was acting purely out of altruism in this matter as the Welsh had wisely decided not to bother with the World Cup by getting knocked out in the qualifying stages. What steps had been taken to ensure the welfare of England fans abroad?
“We’ve had reassurances from Russia,” said Robert Sullivan of the FA. Deputy chief constable Mark Roberts, who is in charge of policing for the event, agreed. Reassurances had been given. Though there might be one or two recognisable threats, there were none that he and the well-prepared England fan couldn’t cope with. The English might be outnumbered, but we weren’t pushovers. Remember the Battle of Britain.
Bryant wondered whether they weren’t being a wee bit complacent, given both the rising tensions between Russia and the UK and that Vladimir Putin had incited Russian hooligans to get stuck in as a matter of national pride. Not at all, insisted Kevin Miles, the chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Federation. There had been dire warnings of supporters getting topped in the townships of South Africa in 2010 and in the favelas of Brazil in 2014 and everything had turned out OK.
Yes, the Russians had their foibles. Jose Altuve Authentic Jersey Their police liked dressing up as paramilitaries and weren’t all that bothered about taking out innocent people as collateral damage, and their hooligans were sometimes a bit enthusiastic in their use of knives and iron bars, but they basically all had a heart of gold. And in any case, the Russians were keen to put on a good show and it was more likely that the Russian police and hooligans would be fighting amongst themselves than with English supporters.
“We can’t promise it will be OK,” said Miles eventually. But it was best to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Besides, he had it on good authority that most England fans were more interested in going to the Hermitage and catching a night at the ballet than actually going to a football match.
Bryant wondered how LGBT people should prepare for Russia. Was it safe for them to share a hotel bedroom or to wave the rainbow flag?
“It’s probably best to err on the side of caution,” Miles said, clearly having not previously given the matter much thought.
“What is erring on the side of caution?” asked the committee chair, Tom Tugendhat, quick to spot any sign of weakness.
“Um. Er,” Miles gasped. “We don’t want to be too prescriptive in out advice because it’s sod’s law ... ” His voice tailed off as everyone realised that last sentence could have been better phrased.
The committee moved on to highlight other areas of concern. How much power did the British police have in Russia? “None,” said Miles happily. Everyone should just chill a bit. Everything was going to be fine. Trust Bobby Jenks Jersey him. And if it wasn’t, then it would still be fine. A Womens Denard Span Jersey few minor casualties would be no big deal.
Tugendhat ended by asking what venue preparations had been made for England reaching the knockout stages of the competition. Sullivan, Miles and Roberts turned to one another in disbelief. What kind of idiot question was that? None of course. This was the England team we were talking about.

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