England Fans Urged Not to Display St George Flag at World Cup in Russia

Published May 16th, 2018 - 09:00 GMT
(AFP/File Photo)
(AFP/File Photo)

England fans are being urged by police not to display St George's flag at the World Cup in Russia because it could bee seen as 'imperialistic' and 'antagonistic'.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the head of football policing, said the flags were the trophies of choice for hooligans from rival countries.

It comes after Russian hooligans attacked England fans in 2016 and posted pictures of dozens of 'captured' St George's flags.

Mr Roberts, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, added that he was acutely aware of worsened diplomatic relations following the Salisbury spy poisonings

He will lead a team of officers to Russia to work with local police in order to protect 10,000 England fans.

'I think people need to be really careful with flags,' said Mr Roberts. It can come across as almost imperialistic... and can cause antagonism.

'We really urge some caution about people putting flags out and waving them about in public.

'We would not expect people to come across to this country, get drunk and drape flags on the Cenotaph, so we need to extend the same courtesy when we go abroad.'

Mr Roberts said that the 'appalling' behaviour of English drunkards when the national team played in Amsterdam in March had set back attempts to demonstrate to Russians that those following Gareth Southgate's team are not hooligans.

'Our message is: "Be respectful,"' Roberts said. 'We know places where English fans have gone to lay wreaths and this summer can bust myths about what English fans represent.

'Russians are fascinated with English fans.

Meanwhile, ISIS supporters have begun to recycle slick propaganda guidelines for attacking stadiums, amid fresh calls for attacks at the World Cup.

Propaganda sites have released online instructions to 'attack them (football fans) with a truck or a car' before 'blowing them up, slaughtering them and shooting them'.

Previous threats used pictures of Lionel Messi behind bars with blood pouring from his eyes, as attacks on the event were called for.

Former Counterterrorism Police Chief Ahmet Yayla told MailOnline there have been 'no specific' threats made, but that Russian security forces should be wary at stadium entrances and ensure thorough searches are carried out.

The Associate Professor at Georgetown University said authorities must be on their guard as fresh calls for attacks could inspire 'lone wolf' killings.

Russia has seen multiple Islamic State attacks in recent years, especially with brutal units form the North Caucasus, an area between Russia and the Caucasus mountains.

The area, which includes Chechnya, has produced some of the most dangerous and deranged jihadis in the Syrian conflict.

Meanwhile, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a branch of Government listening post GCHQ, has warned fans not to take their phones is they insist on travelling to watch the games.

Public Wi-Fi should be avoided and fans should never leave their phone unguarded, cyber security chiefs warned.

Fears over the Russian government's internet capabilities have been heightened in recent months in the wake of the Salisbury spy poisoning, with the Director General of MI5 Andrew Parker warning on Monday of the Kremlin's 'high levels of cyber attacks'.

The NCSC, in a blog post entitled 'Avoid scoring a cyber security own goal this summer', recommended fans check with their mobile network whether their phone will work abroad and consider taking only what is necessary.

It suggested: 'It may be safer and cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go phone.'

All devices should be password protected and two-step authentication should be added, security chiefs said.

The NCSC urged fans to avoid streaming or downloading content from unofficial sites and advised against using internet banking while abroad, as well as plugging in any USB sticks offered as gifts.

The blog also said: 'Public and hotel Wi-Fi connections may not be safe; carefully consider what information you might be sharing when using these connections.

'Stay alert when using devices and don't share your phone, laptop or USBs with anyone.

'Keep your devices with you at all times if possible rather than leave them unattended. Hotel rooms, safes and lockers are not always secure because other people may have access codes or keys.'

Antivirus software and all apps on any phones, tablet or laptop should be up-to-date and data should be backed up before leaving for the tournament.

Fans have been told to expect 'off the scale' numbers of military-style police at the tournament, in response to the terror threat.

Ten thousands England fans are expected to travel to the country next month but demand for tickets is lower than previous tournaments, with only one of England's Group G games selling out its FA allocation so far.

Security services have insisted checks will be rigorous and there will be a huge police presence.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, national lead of football policing, said thousands of armed Russian police will be deployed on match days as part of a huge security operation.

'As you approach the stadiums there is an overwhelming presence and I think the chances of disorder in any of those environments is pretty remote,' he said.

Chief Inspector Joe Stokoe, who will travel to the cities hosting England games, added: 'People do need to be aware that the levels of policing and military is probably going to be off the scale to what we particularly see in the UK.'

England fans were warned to respect their Russian hosts. 


This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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