The FA yesterday launched a campaign to end a practice described as an embarrassment by Terry Venables, the England coach, whose team play Romania at Wembley tomorrow. 'It is an insult to the other country and we want to scrub it out,' Venables said.
The playing of national anthems has been customary before international football matches for decades, but it is only in recent years that the Wembley crowd has booed the opposition anthem.
Until now the official response has been limited to boosting the volume on the public address system in an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the booing.
With England due to host the European Championship - a tournament involving 16 national teams and attracting worldwide media coverage - in two years' time, a fresh approach was required.
The FA recognises the appeal is unlikely to succeed overnight, but hopes at least to reverse the trend. To help the process the playing of Elgar's 'Land of Hope and Glory' as the teams enter the arena may be dropped.
In rugby union 'God Save the Queen' has been ritually booed before England internationals in Edinburgh and Cardiff, but rugby's xenophobia is highly selective. Whereas Wembley crowds boo every foreign anthem, the Scots (who play 'Flower of Scotland' for themselves) and Welsh ('Land of our Fathers') boo only England's.
It is not as if the booing even helps England. Tony Adams, who will captain England for the first time tomorrow, pointed out: 'If we were abroad and our anthem was booed it would just make me more motivated. The same happens with teams that come here.'
It also denies crowds the chance to hear some rarely aired tunes. When the Republic of Ireland played in Moscow a few years ago an English-born player, qualified to play for Ireland through his mother, heard the first anthem and said to a team-mate: 'That's terrible, what's ours like?' - 'That was it,' came the reply.Reuse content