Croatia vs England: Why the Nations League clash is being played behind closed doors

England will play at a completely empty stadium for the first time in their 988-match history on Friday night when they face Croatia in the UEFA Nations League.

Sanctions against the World Cup runners-up mean that HNK Rijeka’s 8,279 capacity venue will be devoid of spectators apart from media and officials.

Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker

The reason for the behind closed doors match dates back to 2015, when Croatia fans used chemicals to burn a swastika onto the pitch in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy.

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UEFA handed Croatia a two-match home crowd ban in their competitions, which has taken three years to fulfil because of the World Cup and qualifying matches played under FIFA’s jurisdiction.

England’s match against their Russia 2018 semi-final opposition is the final match of the ban.

Croatia were also docked a point during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and fined €100,000 for the offence at Split’s Poljud stadium.

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That match against Italy, which ended in a 1-1 draw, was also played behind closed doors because of racist chanting from fans in an earlier 5-1 win over Norway in Zagreb in 2015.

As many as 500 Three Lions fans are still expected to travel to the match as UEFA did not announce that the fixture would be subject to the sanctions until a week after the Nations League draw, meaning many supporters had already booked flights and accommodation. 

The FA has advised fans not to travel to the stadium, even if they have already paid for their trip.