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BATTLE OVER WORLD CUP BOYCOTT

Issued: 2018-03-15

GETTY

Some called for an urgent parliamentary debate on whether the England team should take part in the contest. And there were calls for the Football Association to consider unilaterally pulling out.

The World Cup calls intensified last night as international support for Theresa May’s tough response to the Kremlin following the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia grew.

France, Germany and the US all backed a joint statement with the Government abhorring the attack and agreeing that Russian state involvement was the only credible explanation.

Ministers are understood to be keen to demonstrate that Britain is a democracy where the Government does not tell sporting organisation and other civil bodies what to do in contrast to the dictatorial behaviour of President Putin’s regime.

GETTY

I am very concerned that Putin will use the World Cup in the same way that Hitler used the 1936 Munich Olympics, as a public relations exercise for a brutal dictatorship.

Ian Austin

But an increasing number of MPs have said the pressure on Moscow should be increased with a campaign for a World Cup boycott. Labour MP John Woodcock said: “I would like to see a parliamentary debate on whether concerted Government action together with other countries to postpone the World Cup or move it to another venue would be the right way to go.

“This is a decision which should be shared between the Government, the fans and the FA. I don’t want to see anyone dictated to and I am not calling for England to unilaterally withdraw from the tournament.

“But there is a growing appetite among MPs to push for concerted international action over the World Cup. It should be on the table because of the appalling magnitude of what Russia has done.”

Ian Austin, another Labour MP, said: “I am very concerned that Putin will use the World Cup in the same way that Hitler used the 1936 Munich Olympics, as a public relations exercise for a brutal dictatorship.”

GETTY

Mr Austin, who also expressed fears for the safety of England fans, said pressing for a mass boycott should be looked at.

Senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin said: “In the end this is a matter for the Football Association, after consulting the players and other stakeholders, and for individual players, fans and others. We live in a free country. The Government cannot ban people from going. But I would not go.

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