Please Take Them Home. Please Just Take Them Home.

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In May, as thousands of England fans prepared for a few summer days in Portugal, the Football Association felt compelled to release a short video, less than a minute long, with a simple request. A request so simple, in fact, that it should not really have to be made. Over footage of a man throwing a bicycle into a canal, jumping on a car, and taking his shirt off in a restaurant, it asked one thing of fans: don’t be that idiot.

The campaign did not work. A few days later, before the team’s Nations League semifinal against the Netherlands in Porto, England fans threw bottles at local supporters, smashed car windows, and filled the city’s streets with sporadic fighting. Eventually, the authorities deployed the riot police. Before England’s second game, held in the city of Guimaraes, schools were closed on safety grounds, and people were advised to stay indoors. “That idiot came, and brought twenty of his friends,” as one police officer put it.

They were, clearly, expecting much the same in Prague this week, where England will play the Czech Republic on Friday night. Gareth Southgate, the England manager, expressed his fears last month over a fixture in a city that is easy to reach, where beer is cheap, that has long been a favorite for English bachelor parties, and, ridiculously, will be held on a Friday.

The Czechs were taking no chances, readying police on foot, on horseback and in helicopters to deal with the expected influx of about 6,000 England fans. They planned to have English speaking “anti-conflict units” on patrol, and the support of 11 trouble-spotters from British police forces. The riot units were on standby, and there was talk of a “zero tolerance” approach.

There are some who feel this form of policing can be counterproductive. Certainly, whenever trouble stirs involving England fans — and that is separate from English fans, because Premier League clubs now travel around Europe largely without incident — there is a tendency to suggest that the strong-arm tactics of the local authorities have exacerbated the problem, rather than defused it, and the argument has some merit.

And yet that does not really confront the issue, just as the inclination to blame a “minority” of troublemakers who are not “true” England fans, whatever that means, is nothing more than a deflection. The local police, like the British police who advise them, like the F.A., like Southgate, like the official fan clubs, are generally doing their best, or what they perceive as their best.

They are, certainly, not the root of the problem. That blame lies squarely with the section of England fans who see the opportunity to travel to a European city as a chance for invasion, who treat an airport as a gateway to an anything-goes stag party, who put on a replica jersey and feel compelled to live up to the stories they have seen and heard about the bloodstained hooligan glory days of the 1970s and ’80s.

Crucially, too, these are young(ish) men who have come of age in an era when public rhetoric here pits England against everyone else — the Scots, the Irish, the European Union — and Englishness against Otherness. Along with a songbook that references not just World War II, but the I.R.A. and the Pope, there is an evident strain of Islamophobia in some of the far-right organizations that have taken root among their number.

But there is something else, too, that is often missed, an environmental factor that allows that malevolence to fester. I remember being struck, during the 2016 European Championships in France, by how different England fans and fans of other nations traveled.

In Toulouse, Spain fans draped their flags and paraded their colors, but they were diffuse, small groups occupying different bars, different restaurants, dotted around the city. In St. Etienne, England fans had found a pub, and several thousand of them had congregated around it, claiming it as their land, annexing the space, making it clear outsiders were not welcome, that this was a little patch of England.

There is no malice in that, necessarily, but there is a thoughtlessness, a lack of care for the people who call that place home, and a territoriality that can be a midwife to something worse. It is a cliché, but it is just a minority of fans who actively seek violence. Most England fans want to watch a soccer game. To do that in peace, though, perhaps it is necessary to think about not what image they think they are showing, but what others might see.

Andrea Agnelli, the Juventus chairman, does a fine line in dystopian visions. He has long been the most outspoken advocate of the need to reform men’s club soccer; chances are, if you have heard an outlandish idea about what the future of the game should look like in the last couple of years, it originated with Agnelli.

In London this week, he offered up another: Soccer is at risk of losing out to the video game Fortnite, apparently, and is in danger of “falling into irrelevance.” His solution — and this will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever heard Agnelli say anything — is to make sure all of the big clubs are always playing each other in the Champions League, because domestic soccer is “of little interest for our kids.”

I wonder, Andrea, why that might be. Could it be that the big clubs, one of which you run and on whose behalf you speak, have spent the last two decades hoarding not just the bulk of the money generated by soccer’s inexorable growth, but increasingly all of the best players, much of the aspiring talent, and pretty much all of the oxygen? Do you think that maybe younger fans don’t find domestic leagues compelling because you, and your ilk, have spent quite a long time deliberately making them as predictable as possible?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not talk so much about the 1990s now. A few months ago, when he was in the first flush of restored love with Manchester United, those years came up all the time. A mention of his past, his club’s past, was an obligatory feature of almost every news media call; unable to escape memory lane, he talked endlessly about late winners and Sir Alex and Barcelona 1999.

After a while, it became a bit of a joke; a well-meaning, affectionate one, but a joke nonetheless. Now, though, those little reminiscences have gone, and in the vacuum there is a sadness.

As United has slumped to a dreadful start in the Premier League, the focus has been — understandably — on the gamble the club took in hiring Solskjaer permanently. But what about the other side? What about the gamble Solskjaer himself, through loyalty, could not help but take? His popularity as a player with United’s fans will always endure, but — barring a miraculous turnaround — his legacy now and forever will be a much more complex thing. And what of him? He found happiness in his memories of United; they clearly meant the world to him. When this second stay ends, he will have lost not just a chance he had long dreamed of, but that happiness, too, and that is an awful lot to lose.

I’ve been slightly out of the loop this week for personal reasons, and appear to have missed one of those genuinely seismic, ground-shaking stories that comes along once in a while: two people having an argument. This one is about Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, on the surface, but it is also about trust and sleuthing and the blurring of lines between public and private, and it reads a bit like a John le Carré novel, except one in which George Smiley is on Instagram Stories. Mystified? Fortunately, my colleagues Caity Weaver and Elizabeth Paton were on hand to explain.

You may remember a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about how UEFA is trying to solve a problem of its own making by introducing a third European club competition. Or you may not. Either way, Alan Goldhammer, an Ajax fan with an outstanding name (my name fixation is, I think, rooted in being called Smith), has an idea worth exploring.

He understands why the biggest leagues might have the most participants in the Champions League, but he wants to “liven up the qualification process,” essentially by inverting it. “Grant league champions from 14 leagues, as well as the reigning Champions League and Europa League winners, a spot in the group stages,” he wrote. “Make everyone else qualify for the remaining 16 spots. Knockout competition is always more exciting than the group stage.”

Tim Elcombe, meanwhile, has an idea that could prevent us all spending our whole lives embroiled in various stages of V.A.R.-related controversies. He wants to see a “two-tiered interpretation of the rules,” in which on-field officials should be allowed to make human-error prone judgment calls as they do now, with the crucial twist that they can only be overturned by a video referee if a distinct set of protocols are met.

So, for offside: “assistant referees should not be expected to see if a toe is offside … But to overturn it, there must be daylight between a player’s torso and the last defender for it to be considered offside.” That, he wrote, would be “a clear and obvious error worthy of overturning.”

That sounds eminently sensible, Tim. So we will have to disregard it immediately.

That’s all for this week. I hope you didn’t miss Tariq too much, after he added to his already considerable workload to cover for me last week. You can encourage your loved ones to sign up for the newsletter here, and direct all other enquiries to Twitter. All suggestions, questions and reviews are always welcome at

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