Almost half of England football fans believe the team should boycott Russia 2018 - survey

Nearly half of all England fans surveyed believe the national team should boycott this summer's World Cup in Russia following the poisoning attack in Salisbury, a poll has found.

Forza Football, a live score app, asked 1,000 of its users during Wednesday's Barcelona-Chelsea game if "England should boycott?"

The sample was randomly chosen from users who have listed themselves as England fans and the question came via a push notification to their phone or device.

The result was that 48% voted to boycott, with 52% believing England should go to Russia.

Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May had told parliament that Russia was "culpable" for the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daugher Yulia, which took place in the Wiltshire city 11 days ago.

Having been poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent, the Skripals remain in a serious condition in hospital, as does the first policeman on the scene, Nick Bailey.

While Russia has angrily denied any state involvement in the attack, the incident has been widely condemned around the globe with many world leaders agreeing with May's assessment that this attempted hit was ordered by the Kremlin.

The British government's most significant response has been to announce the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats but it has also said that no government ministers or members of the royal family will attend this summer's World Cup.

Both May and sports minister Tracey Crouch, however, have made it clear that any decision to pull the England team out of the competition rests with the Football Association, and it is understood to be continuing with its preparations to compete this summer.

Reprisals from Russia are expected in the coming days, and the Russians have already indicated that there will be a tit-for-tat expulsion of British diplomats.

There may also be retaliation against British journalists if broadcast regulator Ofcom decides to revoke the UK licence of Russia Today, the Kremlin-funded channel accused of pumping out propaganda and fake news.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was widely quoted in the Russian media on Wednesday saying every British outlet would be banned from attending the World Cup if Russia Today lost its licence.

A spokesperson for FIFA, however, told Press Association Sport that this was probably an idle threat.

"FIFA is overall in charge of the international media accreditation process for the 2018 FIFA World Cup," football's world governing body said.

"Plenty of UK-based media representatives have already been accredited and will receive their accreditation confirmations in the coming days."

And National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "Sports journalists want to report on the World Cup and should not be prevented from doing their work due to the ongoing crisis of diplomatic and political relations between the two countries.

"NUJ members just want to get on with their jobs, and the politicians should let them."

- PA

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