England refuse to play match in Madrid

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England are set to play Spain in a friendly next year - but will not allow the fixture to be held in Madrid, because of the racism problems they experienced at the Bernabeu in 2004.

Contrary to reports, the Football Association are committed to a game against the European Champions - which was personally requested by coach Fabio Capello.

Although an official agreement is yet to be reached between the FA and their Spanish counterparts, the fixture is expected to be played on Wednesday, February 11, the only remaining FIFA international date still to be filled. However, the FA want to avoid a return to Madrid, mindful of the problems England experienced last time they visited the Spanish capital four years ago.

Shaun Wright-Phillips was abused - along with Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Jermaine Jenas. The Spanish Federation were eventually fined £45,000.

Given it was only last month that Emile Heskey was singled out for similar treatment in Croatia, England are keen to be taking a stand on such matters and have made it a condition of the game that it will not be held at the Bernabeu - Spain's traditional, although not permanent, home and where Capello was coach up until last year.

"We are currently in discussions with the Spanish Federation with a view to playing the European Champions in Spain in February," said FA director of communications Adrian Bevington.

"This fixture is one of the friendly games that Fabio Capello requested to play. But as yet, a venue is still to be confirmed and the contract still to be signed.

"However, from the outset, the FA, with Fabio, were clear we would not play the fixture in Madrid due to the incidents of racial abuse we faced last time.

"Fabio is totally supportive of this fixture."

With Madrid ruled out, Seville and Valencia would appear the most likely alternatives - although the FA are keen to stress no venue is in place, aware that a significant number of fans will want to make their travel arrangements.

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Ashley Cole
Emile Heskey
Jermaine Jenas
Jermain Defoe
Shaun Wright-Phillips
Rio Ferdinand
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