Eric Dier has expressed his concern over worsening fan behaviour, calling it a “huge, huge problem” for English football, and says his mum does not go to away games because of the issue.
There has been a notable resurgence in crowd trouble at matches in recent years, ranging from the carnage at Wembley Stadium before last summer’s Euro 2020 final to several physical attacks on players during pitch invasions in the EFL towards the back end of last season.
Dier is reluctant to overplay the impact of verbal abuse aimed at players by rival fans, insisting it is “really not that big a deal for me”, but believes poor fan behaviour is affecting the game more broadly.
The Tottenham defender refused to lay the blame at the door of any particular set of supporters, revealing he has friends and family who suffered abuse both in the away end and from home fans during Spurs’ meeting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.
“It has definitely got worse,” he said. “For me it is a serious problem. I had some family and friends at the Chelsea away game with Tottenham and they had problems and stuff. Not nice ones either. It is a huge, huge problem.
“It was verbal, not physical - but, like, bad stuff.
“I want to emphasise it was both sets of fans - I am not saying it is Chelsea fans or Tottenham fans, it is football fans in general.”
Dier, who is back in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the first time in 18 months, famously waded into the crowd following Tottenham’s FA Cup defeat to Norwich in March 2020, in order to defend his brother, who had been targeted with abuse by a supporter.
The centre-back was hit with a four-match ban over the incident and fined £40,000, but says he has no regrets over his reaction.
“I’ve never spoken about that situation in the press before because, to be honest, I wasn’t at all happy with the way it was handled,” Dier said. “I don’t know what I can say about it because I don’t know if I’ll get banned or fined again or whatever.
“It wasn’t too dramatic like people make it out to be. But yeah, I don’t regret it at all and I’d do it again.”
The 28-year-old says he is rarely personally affected by abuse and does not want to overdramatise the issue, but is concerned about players’ families being caught up in incidents at matches.
“I never complain about this stuff and I don’t really mind,” he added. “We played Burnley after I went in the stands for the next away game and the Burnley fans were singing a song about my brother and I like that kind of thing - I find it quite funny. I like that kind of humour, you know, if it is in the right way. I love that side of things. I love playing away games and I enjoy those kinds of atmospheres. It is part of it.
“But there are some things I find very strange. It is not nice. My family would never go to an away game nowadays because of it and that’s a shame that I feel too uncomfortable for them to go to away games.
“This has been for years. My mum has not been to an away game. She would love to, but I would be worried about it and that’s crazy, isn’t it? All of our families go through it. Every player’s parents have been watching them since they were kids and have gone through that kind of stuff.
“But I am not dramatic about it and I don’t think anybody should be. It it really not that big a deal for me.”