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Police brief England players amid fears homes may be targeted by gangs during Euro 2024

The England players walk to training - Police brief England players amid fears homes may be targeted by gangs during Euro 2024
International tournaments like Euro 2024 are 'particularly high risk' for players - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

England’s Euro 2024 players have received special briefings from police and security chiefs amid fears of copycat burglaries akin to the World Cup raid on Raheem Sterling’s home in 2022.

The Football Association arranged a presentation in which officers gave concerned players a specific checklist on how to protect themselves and their loved ones as they fly out to Germany.

Personal security had been identified as a major priority for the players after Sterling flew home from Doha in 2022 with his family in terror following a raid on his £7 million Surrey mansion.

The FA never discloses security arrangements but extensive measures are known to be in place to counter the growing trend of gangs targeting wealthy footballers.

Several worried England players took matters into their own hands during their last extended spell away, putting security guards on 24-hour alert as Sterling flew home.

Security specialists say international tournaments, especially those in Europe where large groups of family members also fly out, are “particularly high risk” for players.

High-value targets

Over the past season, organised criminals have continued to target Premier League players’ high-value properties even when they are in the UK. Newcastle United striker Alexander Isak is the most recent victim, with his Northumberland home raided in April. Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool players have also been targeted in recent years.

Christian Hill, group managing director at Intelligent Protection which regularly provides close protection and home security for a host of undisclosed high net worth Britons and VIPs, welcomed an apparently improved security plan from the FA. “I would say the risk [to players] is extremely high – when it’s England, you know well in advance when fixtures are,” said Hill.

“Criminals have got time to plan because they know exactly the dates when the players are going to be away, and that’s set in stone a year before it happens. These raids are not punts. They have the time to plan, do reconnaissance and try to look at the family’s routine – when they’re in, when they’re out, when the kids go to school, when the wife goes to work. Big tournaments are extremely high risk. Anything that is high profile and in the public eye makes for quite easy plans.”

Albanian gang members suspected of stealing £300,000 worth of jewellery and watches from Sterling are still being hunted by Surrey Police. The men suspected of being responsible are linked with 32 other burglaries, totalling an estimated £1 million.

Chelsea forward Sterling, who is not part of the squad for Germany, missed England’s 3-0 win over Senegal in Qatar, but returned as a substitute for the quarter-final defeat to France six days later.

Too much information

Hill said the growth of fly-on-the-wall football documentaries is a particularly alarming trend as some players and teams are giving away additional, key pieces of information about player properties.

“There is a risk players are giving away too much if they’re letting cameras into their homes,” he added. “I’ve seen a few where the cameras are following players around their local areas and then to the training grounds. So there’s little bits of information that gangs are picking up.”

The Telegraph has previously reported how players were ready to have safety measures written into their contracts, with many blaming clubs rather than their countries for failing to provide adequate protection.

Players are not only seeing their homes being targeted. In early June, Tottenham midfielder Yves Bissouma was robbed of a £250,000 watch by two assailants while arriving at a Cannes hotel.

Hill says intelligence is key in any attack and he advises clients to take fairly drastic preventative action, including asking staff they work with to sign non-disclosure agreements to avoid gossip.

“It’s good that clubs, national teams, athletes and their agents are taking this more seriously,” says Hill. “There’s a number of things that we talk to people about in the first instance to keep themselves safe. The first one is the possessions – we just don’t need them to be on show. If you’ve got things that are ultra high-value, do they need to be in the house or are they better off being in a bank vault somewhere? They’ve all got staff and they’ve all got house cleaners, fitness instructors, wives bringing friends over, all that sort of stuff. You have just got to make sure you’ve got as robust a [security] situation in place.”

Panic rooms for protection

Players are known to go to extreme lengths to protect themselves, with some installing panic rooms into their homes and others redirecting deliveries and asking workmen to sign non-disclosure agreements to protect their identities and addresses. Increased CCTV and mobile patrols, Hill said, will be upped as a matter of course when clients are away for extended periods.

Alex Bomberg, chairman of Intelligent Protection, previously said he fears a Premier League footballer could get killed if security is not taken more seriously.

One suspect was charged in relation to raids on Sterling’s home and other properties, but three Albanian nationals in Alfred Isufi, 48, Gerard Kalaja, 22, and Henri Osmani, 44, are still wanted for questioning by Surrey Police. They are believed to still be in the UK and have links to Essex and north London. Surrey Police detectives made a public appeal to trace the men on BBC’s Crimewatch.

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