Official fans' group admits interest in the England team is dwindling

• This could have contributed to Poles' 18,000 ticket allocation
• Wembley only sells out when there is a large travelling support

The official England fans' group has claimed interest in following the national team has dwindled in recent years and may have contributed to the Football Association's decision to sell 18,000 tickets to Polish fans for Tuesday night's match.

The FA on Monday defended the decision to allocate 18,000 tickets to Polish fans, double the allocation required under Fifa rules, for the make-or-break qualifying match.

An FA spokesman said the decision had been taken in August to put 9,000 extra tickets on sale to Polish fans living in the UK after the FA's intelligence suggested that otherwise there would be large pockets of away support among the England fans.

But Mark Perryman, head of the London branch of England fans, said that while he had no problem with so many Poles being in the stadium it was notable that England's support had declined in numbers in recent years.

He said that Wembley only sold out when there were large contingents of travelling supporters, highlighting recent friendlies against Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Ghana.

"England's travelling support has been down significantly. The reason the Poles have got so many England tickets is because English fans don't want to buy them. They have been on sale since August," said Perryman.

"There's not the degree of interest in the England team that there was. Wembley only sells out when there is a large travelling support."

The FA, which needs to maintain cashflows at Wembley to satisfy loan repayments, said that England still attracted significantly more fans than most other major nations, even for friendly matches.

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