WORLD CUP 2022
Why is the England Football Association investigating the Block 109 fans group?
The World Cup is just days away, the England squad has been announced, but there are some concerning fan-based issues to be resolved.
Much of Thursday was a day of speculation around the English camp, with debates over who Gareth Southgate should select in his 26-man squad for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. From the moment it was announced, the debates immediately switched to positive noises over the chosen few’s chances and questions about who missed out on a ticket.
While all this was taking the headlines, another related story was brewing, not about those stars working hard for international glory, but on a small group of those travelling to be near them. The supporters group known as Block 109 are being investigated by the English Football Association for social media posts that are deemed to be racist and homophobic.
What is the Block 109 England fans group?
The English fan group known as Block 109 took the name due to their current seating location in Wembley Stadium’s east stand. They are members of the official England Supporters Travel Club and formed back in 2018 during the World Cup held in Russia, and founded by Kunal Sapat.
Due to their close affiliation with the English FA, with whom they have worked with over recent years, Block 109 has been afforded special group bookings for home matches. They have stated that their objective is to “raise the noise levels at Wembley” but have been investigated before, with warnings being sent to them.
What Block 109 messages are being investigated?
As reported by Luke Brown for The Athletic, the messages that are being looked into were sent across the last couple of years via WhatsApp. They include a racially abusive reference to the British prime minister Rishi Sunak, anti-Arab and pro-Hamas messages, and homophobic references to the Arsenal women’s football team.
And a storm has grown as news of a controversial initiative which would see Sapat and others from the group handed free flights, tickets and accommodation by the Qatari organisers in return for favourable public feedback of their experience. It’s not like this is the first time bribery and corruption has been discussed regarding this World Cup.
Had it not been for media reporting on the issues, a flag of group was going to be travelling on the plane of the England squad. The FA has since gone back on that agreement as a spokesperson confirmed, “The Block 109 flag will not be taken on the team flight to Qatar.”
The FA made their stance clear to The Athletic.
“We investigate all allegations of poor behaviour by England Supporters Travel Club members where the allegations could constitute a breach of England Supporters Travel Club Rules and have, when necessary, issued sanctions against members.
“We also refer any allegation of racism to the police. We are unable to comment on individual cases. If anyone has evidence of racism, they should provide us with evidence and we will investigate and also refer it to the police.”
It’s worth noting that in the past the Block 109 group have had plenty of plaudits for their various stances against abuse and discrimination, so this latest episode will not go down well.