England fans urged not to fly ‘imperialistic’ St George flag
Police chief fears for supporters heading to Russia for World Cup following violence at Euro 2016
England football fans attending the 2018 World Cup in Russia are being warned not to display the St George’s Cross as it risks being 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”, the Daily Mail reports.
England supporters in France for Euro 2016 clashed with Russian fans, who posted pictures of dozens of “captured” St George flags.
Roberts noted that tensions between Russia and the UK are now even higher following allegations that Russia was behind the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury earlier this year.
Thousands of England supporters waving flags traditionally gather in host city centres ahead of international tournaments, says The Times. England’s first game, against Tunisia on 18 June, will take place in Volgograd - formerly known as Stalingrad - the site of the bloodiest battle of the Second World War and regarded by Russians as “a symbol of the Great Patriotic War”, the newspaper adds.
Russian police will reportedly issue a list of sensitive sites and memorials in the city that foreign fans should avoid.
“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 and treat places with due reverence,” Roberts said.