Eriksson urges minority not to ruin England's 'party'

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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson has warned once again that England risk being thrown out of the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal if fans travel to Turkey for next month's crucial qualifier.

England go into their final group game with a one-point advantage over the Turks and will progress if they avoid defeat on 11 October. However, the Swede insists there is a real threat that England could be excluded from next year's finals should there be any crowd trouble in Istanbul.

The Football Association received a heavy fine and a strong warning after disturbances at the first game between the two countries in Sunderland in April. Now Eriksson has asked England fans to stay at home and watch on television.

"In just 13 days from now the England players will walk out at Fenerbahce's Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul into one of the hottest footballing atmospheres they will have ever experienced," Eriksson said on the FA website.

"Undoubtedly, this is our biggest game since we played Brazil in the quarter-final of last summer's World Cup, when we had the wonderful support of tens of thousands of England fans.

"For security reasons, however, the FA has decided not to make tickets available to England fans for the match in Turkey. We have had to take such a difficult decision because the FA received serious warnings from Uefa about the behaviour of England fans following the home match with Turkey in April.

"Unfortunately, despite the wonderful support we receive from the majority of fans, the conduct of some fans has put us in a very difficult position.

"Any further incidents of violence or disorder could result in possible expulsion from the tournament. We must all do everything we can to avoid this happening. That's why today I'm appealing to every England fan not to travel to Turkey. Please listen to all the advice from the FA, Government and police, and please stay at home."

FA officials last week attended a Uefa summit with their Turkish counterparts in Switzerland and Eriksson hopes events on the field will now take precedence.

"Since the home match with Turkey, the FA has worked very hard to make supporters aware of their responsibilities and our fans have reacted in an extremely positive manner," Eriksson added. "All of us are grateful for this.

"I know the FA has also been communicating regularly with the Turkish federation since the game at Sunderland, and relations between the two associations are good. We are working together to ensure that this match is remembered for what happens on the field.

"It will be a difficult situation for all of us connected with the team to play without England fans in the stands. It's a pity, as football should be a party, but on this occasion the security reasons are more important.

"It would be devastating for the players if they won the game in Turkey and then they found themselves unable to play in next summer's finals because of matters off the field. I know it would be devastating for every England fan, too.

"As a football coach I am very excited about this match - anyone connected to football would be. Going into the match we are in a very strong position, knowing that if we win or draw we will qualify automatically.

"All of us want to be in Portugal, and I'm sure both England and Turkey will be there. We want to be part of a huge celebration of football as we bid to win our first trophy for 38 years. It would be terrible if a small number of people ruined this prospect for the players, coaches and, most importantly, the millions of fans in England."