UK

A friendly football match between England and Italy supporters has been cancelled after a “sinister” message, allegedly sent by local “ultras”.

Garford Beck, the boss of England men’s supporters’ team, said he received a “threatening” email ahead of their game in Naples on Sunday, which read: “We will be there, 60 ultra to get you.”

“Ultras” are an organised group of die-hard football fans, known for their fanatical support of their teams.

But the groups are linked to violence and disorder at and around football matches, with some having links to nationalism and the far-right.

The Italian Football Federation has now informed Mr Beck the game has been cancelled after representations were made with them by the English Football Association (FA).

Mr Beck said he believed the Italian FA were left with “little choice”.

“Safety has to be our priority and we would have been an easy target for these people,” he said.

“They normally come tooled up to the hilt so it could have been a very nasty situation had I not opened that email.”

Mr Beck’s team of England fans plays against rival supporters in conjunction with Three Lions fixtures.

The match was scheduled alongside England’s opening Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy in Naples on Thursday.

Mr Beck said England fans had played their Italian counterparts in Milan in September last year – to coincide with a Nations League game – without any issues.

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He said: “There’s been no hint of anything until I opened that email.

“We’re just out there to get together with whoever it is we’re playing, have a game of football, have a few beers and go off to the match, it’s nothing more than that really.”

Last week, there were clashes between Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt fans before and after their Champions League tie, with cars set on fire and windows smashed.

Eight people – five Italians and three Germans – were arrested.

But England boss Gareth Southgate said on he has no safety concerns ahead the match.

“In the end, it’s for the Italian FA to decide where they play their games,” he said.

“Clearly, our organisation will always try to make the travelling experience as smooth as possible for our fans and that’s important.”

Around 2,500 Three Lions fans who secured tickets via the England Supporters’ Travel Club are expected in Naples for Thursday’s Euro 2024 fixture.

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