ENGLAND supporters could face a hostile reception at Euro 2012.
That is the concern of Sunderland-based Republic of Ireland fan Martin O’Neill, who will be travelling with friends to follow Giovanni Trapattoni’s men at the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
Reports of football violence and racism in the two countries have fuelled fears about England supporters making the trip to support Roy Hodgson and the team at Euro 2012, which starts on Friday.
Ex-international Sol Campbell has advised fans to watch the action at home, while the families of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have already indicated they will not make the journey amid fears of racial abuse.
Martin, owner of Sweet Home Alabama sweet shop in Sunderland city centre, is not overly concerned by the revelations, but said English fans should take care in Ukraine.
His 10-strong group of SAFC season ticket holders, six of whom live in the city, will travel to their country’s matches in Poland from a base in Berlin.
“The only thing we were concerned about in Poland was the hotel costs,” said the 55-year-old.
“It’s a shame England have to go out to Donetsk – that could be a bit ropey.
“For what it’s worth, I think Uefa have given them the championships to move the country forward on the road to democracy.”
England fans will likely be outnumbered as travelling supporters at a major tournament for the first time in years.
The Football Association (FA) was given about 7,500 tickets for the games against France and Ukraine, and 9,000 for the Sweden fixture.
Only 3,000 tickets were sold through official channels for each, and the rest returned to Uefa for general sale.
The FA hopes up to 10,000 England fans will travel independently.
Chairman David Bernstein does not believe they will face trouble.
“People are planning carefully and have had advice and our supporters have from the Government about the situation out there,” he said.
“But hopefully things will go well.
“We’re going into this tournament in every way very positively.”
The recession and high travel and hotel costs have put fans off, rather than fears of violence, believes Football Supporters Federation spokesman Kevin Miles.
He said: “It is hard to get flights to Kiev, with prices at a premium, while the distances between venues is huge and there is the cost involved in travelling those distances. The hotel prices have also been hugely inflated.
“It is not a holiday destination and the question is, how do you spend the days between the games?
“It is not the Algarve, where families could go off to the beach for a day.”