FA hoping England fans can return to Wembley for October triple-header

The Football Association is hopeful of welcoming England fans back to Wembley for October’s triple-header.

UEFA announced on Wednesday that the September international break will go ahead as planned, with Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions set for back-to-back Nations League away fixtures in Iceland and Denmark.

Those matches will be played behind closed doors due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic but FA chief executive Mark Bullingham is keen to work with the government to allow some supporters in for the home games the following month.

“One decision that UEFA confirmed is there won’t be any fans in stadia in September, from our point of view it is a shame that fans won’t be able to attend any matches in person but we do have great broadcast partners,” he said.

“We hope that by our three home games in October that there will be some change to that and we would like to get some fans into Wembley then.

“To what level, we have obviously got to work out with both UEFA and the government – we are not talking about full stadia but we are talking about having some level of crowds back in October as our goal.”

England will host Wales in a friendly on October 8 before two more Nations League Group 2 fixtures against Belgium and Denmark.

“We’d love to get fans back in the stadia for all three matches in October,” added Bullingham.

“UEFA have made the decision not to have any back in September for any games. In October I think it will be a different set of circumstances to be discussed.

“We didn’t go to that level of detail on the call today, but I think there could well be a circumstance where you get different approaches from different countries.

“The pandemic is so hard to predict but there are radically different situations in the countries and you’ve got to adapt.”

With the 2020/21 season already truncated due to a late start and needing to be completed in time for the rearranged European Championship next summer, there was a suggestion the Nations League could be postponed.

Bullingham suggested England boss Gareth Southgate may pick larger squads due to the amount of football to be played next season.
Bullingham suggested England boss Gareth Southgate may pick larger squads due to the amount of football to be played next season.

International footballers will face a gruelling campaign but Bullingham believes having national teams playing again is key – especially with the Euros being followed by the World Cup in 2022.

“We all view that international football is really important to fans and the country as a whole,” he said.

“We have lost two international windows in March and June and feel this is the right time for it to come back.

“When we look at the calendar, it was put together by UEFA in conjunction with the ECA and European Leagues and obviously the calendar included time for the domestic leagues to finish by the end of July, allowed for club football to take place in August and has always included the September international as it is.

“So I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone that the window is going to carry on. I think the number of games is an ongoing issue we have all got to resolve together.

  • October 8 - Wales (friendly)

  • October 11 - Belgium (Nations League)

  • October 14 - Denmark (Nations League)

“I think when you look at the triple-headers ahead it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gareth picks a bigger squad.

“We view the Nations League as being a really important competition, it went brilliantly last time and we see it as something which will continue to grow so we don’t believe the Nations League should be sacrificed.

“We have got a brilliant opportunity to get international football going again – we have two big tournaments coming up in the next two years so the Nations League will provide a really good training environment for that.”