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FA boss disappointed that fewer England fans are in Russia

An advertising board welcomes fans to the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Photo: PA

The chairman of the Football Association has said he is “sad” the numbers of England fans in Russia for the World Cup is lower than previous tournaments.

Greg Clarke said he had been “surprised” by the open-arms welcome of the Russian people and the organisation of the tournament.

A leading football fan group, the Football Supporters’ Federation, said earlier this week the turnout for England 2-1 win over Tunisia was possibly the lowest for 30 years.

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Mr Clarke said: “I am sad that there aren’t more English people here sharing this wonderful football festival because it has surprised me.

“The efficiency, the welcome, just the warmth of the Russian people has really, really, impressed me.

“And I just wish more people had a chance to experience it first-hand.”

Asked what went wrong with the pre-tournament messaging from the FA and Foreign Office, he said: “I don’t think wrong is the right word – I think people gave good-faith advice to the best of their ability and things turned out to be a bit better.

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“I would rather have that problem than the other problem. We’ve had the other problem before and things turned out badly.”

Deputy British Ambassador to Russia, Lindsay Skoll, defended the Government’s advice from accusations of “scaremongering”.

The Foreign Office had warned “heightened” tensions between the UK and the Kremlin in the wake of the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury could mean supporters faced “anti-British sentiment or harassment”.

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But Ms Skoll said: “I think the advice has been accurate and what I can see already in Nizhny is more than Volgograd and momentum is building on to Kaliningrad as well.”

She said she was delighted with how the tournament was going.

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“What I am delighted about is Russia is putting on a good show and the people are genuinely welcome to see people from all over the world.

“I think what we have to be clear about is that everybody has to make up their own mind.

“What you are seeing is an extremely warm welcome – that is right. I’m delighted with the turnout we’ve got, the fans we’ve got here are in good voice, in good character, in good humour.”