England futsal team 'appalled' by FA decision to withdraw from play-offs

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Wolves defender Max Kilman (centre) played 25 times for the England futsal team
Wolves defender Max Kilman (centre) played 25 times for the England futsal team

England futsal players are "appalled" by the Football Association's decision to withdraw the team from November's Euro 2022 play-offs because of coronavirus safety fears.

The FA axed its England futsal teams last month because of budget cuts associated with Covid-19.

But players still intended to travel to North Macedonia for their two play-off games next week.

The FA said it was "very disappointed for the players and the staff".

It added the decision was "solely based" on safety reasons.

Futsal is a small-sided indoor football game which uses a heavy ball to help improve skills and close control.

Players said in a statement: "We cannot trust the FA's reasoning that this was for our welfare since they have treated us with contempt since announcing funding cuts."

The statement also said that Uefa had established strict testing protocols, and England are the only team to withdraw from the matches which are set to take place from 2-11 November to decide the next stage of qualifying for Euro 2022 in the Netherlands.

England were due to play North Macedonia twice, on 8 and 9 November, in Skopje.

The statement added: "We are appalled that the FA has made a decision to pull out of crucial Uefa qualifiers that we had been preparing for without their support.

"The safety of players and staff must always be the priority and Uefa has put in strict protocols to protect everyone's welfare.

"We can only conclude that senior personnel at the FA are continuing to take advantage of the pandemic to pursue a cruel attack on the sport."

Gareth Southgate's England team are set to travel to Belgium for their Nations League match on 15 November.

The FA said: "Player and staff safety is our primary concern across all England teams and it remains essential that we continue to follow UK Government advice and our own COVID Advisory Group England (CAGE) guidelines for our teams at both elite and non-elite level.

"Having undertaken a full and thorough risk assessment, the FA has regrettably decided to withdraw the England Futsal team from the Uefa Futsal EURO play-off games on 8 and 9 November in North Macedonia."

Last month's decision to axe the senior futsal team, the under-23s and under-19s led to players feeling "shocked and devastated".

Wolves defender and former England futsal international Max Kilman says he was "sad" and “disappointed” by the FA's decision, having played 25 times for his country.

England futsal players' attempts to meet with the FA to discuss the decision have been unsuccessful.

They sent FA chief executive Mark Bullingham 14 questions asking for more information about the cuts, but have not received a response.

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