Football has wooed diverse England fans

The image of England, the nation, always comes under the microscope during international football tournaments. In the past, media footage of beer-fuelled, young white men - at best displaying aggressive nationalism, and at worst resorting to violence - has come hurtling into view. The prevailing image of the UK has boiled down to the ugly essence of yobbishness.

However, this World Cup is so far (touch wood) challenging that perception. Starved of significant disturbances to report, the press - many of whom have followed the national team at previous tournaments - have noted that England's visible support has become much more diverse: there are more black and Asian fans, more women, more families and more older people than ever before. OK, young white men - mainly good-natured and well behaved - still make up a large chunk of the 70,000-strong throng in Germany. But the composition is changing to become a more accurate reflection of the UK. Groups such as Kick It Out, which tackles racism in football, deserve credit here, as does that much-maligned institution, the FA.

Behind the scenes, as part of its All Together Now campaign to encourage good fan behaviour, the FA has run roadshows, reaching out to communities and targeting ethnic minority press. Moreover, several years ago it took the bold decision of changing the way tickets are allocated for major tournaments through the official England supporters' club, Englandfans. Before, allocation was based purely on loyalty, which made it difficult to break into the fan base. Now, a significant proportion are allocated randomly.

This leaves the FA open to accusations of penalising some of the most passionate fans - yet in the longer term it will bring about an equally passionate but more diverse fan base. For groups such as Kick It Out, seeing footage of black people and women waving the St George's flag serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. That has to be a result.

Danny Rogers is away.

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