England fan blog: We're not used to being outnumbered

Although around 4,000 England fans made it to the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, they were outnumbered by about ten to one by Ukrainians. Photo: PA
  • England fans in Ukraine will send blogs and images to ITV News throughout the team's participation in the Euro 2012 Championships. Here, Mark Perryman, a member of the LondonEnglandFans supporters' group, explains why so few England fans have travelled to the tournament.

Although we've more than made up for it with the noise we've been making it, so far we've been relatively few in number at the games.

At England’s first game the bulk of the crowd seemed to be Russians; the French numbered a few hundred, us a few thousand. At the second match in Kiev the stadium was full of Swedes and at the third game against the host nation in Donetsk the ground was probably 90% Ukraine fans.

This is a new experience for most of us. At World Cup 2006 and Euro 2004 we were among the biggest travelling supports, filing the stands and redecorating every available space with our flags.

Now we’re in a quarter-final it is expected that thousands more will fly out to join those of us already here.

Why did so few travel for the group stages? Firstly the team’s poor performances out in South Africa: when expectations are so low the numbers of those who will spend the time and money to follow England to a tournament will inevitably fall.

England fans hang a flag in the Swedish Corner bar gathered in the fanzone in Kiev. Credit: PA

Reason two: getting here. It's not nearly as expensive or difficult to get to as so many assumed but with the best will in the world Ukraine isn’t the kind of holiday destination that millions from England are familiar with in the way Portugal (Euro 2004) was. Nor is it a 24-hour drive, a train journey or a cheap flight away as with Germany in 2006.

And the third reason, which probably irks those of us out here the most, is the cruel misrepresentation of Ukraine as a host nation. The TV documentaries on BBC and Sky sensationalised the serious issues of racism and hooliganism out of all sense of meaningful context, creating the entirely false idea that Ukraine was a dangerous, even life-threatening place to come to.

And finally, the recession. When money is tight and jobs are vulnerable this is bound to affect fans’ ability to take two or three weeks off work for a tournament.

But those of us out here are not only having a great time, we’re the team’s support in the stands trying to create the atmosphere to lift the team as we stand on the verge of making history. My article yesterday detailed my choice of the top five England chants at Euro 2012.

  • Mark Perryman is a member of the LondonEnglandFans supporters' group and the author of Ingerland: Travels with a Football Nation. His views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.

See full coverage of England's quarter-final against Italy over at ITV Sport.