FA would face criticism one way or another for conflict response – Southgate

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer was “extremely disappointed” by the FA’s decision not to light up the Wembley arch in colours of the Israeli flag.

Pa Sport Staff
Thursday 12 October 2023 21:23 BST
England manager Gareth Southgate accepted it was “one of the most complex situations in the world” (Jacob KIng/PA)
England manager Gareth Southgate accepted it was “one of the most complex situations in the world” (Jacob KIng/PA)

England manager Gareth Southgate accepts the Football Association would have been “criticised in one way or another” for its response to the Israel and Palestine conflict.

Following attacks by Hamas militants on the country’s territory last weekend, the FA had faced calls to illuminate the Wembley arch in the colours of the Israeli flag before Friday’s friendly between England and Australia.

The Hamas attacks have led to the Israeli government responding with airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, with a ground invasion also reported to be a possibility.

The British Government had written to UK sports bodies encouraging them to mark events in Israel appropriately.

The FA, though, announced in a statement on Thursday that players would wear black armbands and that a period of silence would be observed instead to remember the victims of the conflict.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said she was left “extremely disappointed” by the decision not to light up Wembley.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews also criticised the FA statement – pointing out that it made “no mention of the mass terrorist murders of hundreds of innocent Israelis last Saturday”.

What I do know is people at the FA will have consulted with everybody they possibly can and will have tried to make the best decision with good intentions.

England manager Gareth Southgate

England manager Southgate was asked for his thoughts on the FA’s stance at Thursday’s pre-match press conference ahead of the Australia game, and accepted it was “one of the most complex situations in the world”.

Southgate said: “Firstly (there have been) incredibly harrowing pictures. (Our) thoughts and feelings are to everybody who has suffered, who have lost relatives and friends in these attacks. It is incredibly disturbing to see.

“On a broader scale, in my lifetime it is one of the most complex situations in the world and I think everybody is grappling with how best to deal with that.

“I don’t know what it is like to walk in the shoes of people on either side of that conflict. What I do know is people at the FA will have consulted with everybody they possibly can and will have tried to make the best decision with good intentions.

“Clearly whatever decision they came to would have been criticised in one way or another, so I also recognise how difficult it was for them. I wasn’t involved in those discussions, (but) they went on for a long time I know.

“They (FA) have decided to take the stance they have and we will get on with that.”

The FA said flags, replica kits and other representations of nationality beyond those related to England or Australia would not be allowed inside Wembley on Friday.

The Culture Secretary also criticised the FA’s stance in a post on social media on Thursday evening.

“I am extremely disappointed by the FA’s decision not to light up the Wembley Stadium arch following last weekend’s horrific terrorist attacks in Israel, and have made my views clear to the FA,” Frazer wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“It is especially disappointing in light of the FA’s bold stance on other terrorist attacks in the recent past. Words and actions matter. The Government is clear: we stand with Israel.”

Teams in the EFL and Premier League will pay tribute to the victims of the conflict in their next rounds of matches.

There will also be a period of silence ahead of kick-off at the weekend’s matches in the Women’s Super League, Women’s Championship and Women’s National League to “remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board released a statement on Thursday which read: “We deplore the appalling loss of innocent life following recent events in Israel and Palestine.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all the innocent victims, and those who are still missing, as well as the communities who are affected.

“While sport seems trivial compared to the harrowing scenes we have all watched, it is also an opportunity for people to come together and remind ourselves that there’s far more that brings us together, than divides us. We should now all unify in our hope for peace.”

England cricketer Moeen Ali has deleted an Instagram post featuring the Palestinian flag and a quote from Malcolm X.

Moeen then put up a new post, without the flag but containing the same Malcolm X quote: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

The International Olympic Committee said its executive board members had “expressed their very strong feelings over these tragic events in the recent days” at the start of Thursday’s meeting in Mumbai and “express their deepest sympathy with the innocent victims of this terrible violence”.

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