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Football needs to get tough on racist fans, MPs say as England cruise to win

It comes as a British man, 32, died in Sofia ahead of Euro match with Bulgaria

Bulgaria fans in the stands (Nick Potts/PA)
Bulgaria fans in the stands (Nick Potts/PA)

By Ryan Hooper, PA Chief Reporter

MPs have called on European football’s governing body to come down hard on Bulgaria after England players were subjected to “abhorrent racist chanting” during the Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

Sports minister Nigel Adams described the abuse as “disgusting”, while new Lib Dem MP Luciana Berger – who quit Labour in protest at the handling of anti-Semitism allegations – called on Uefa to take “tough action”.

It came after an England fan died in the build-up to Monday night’s match.

England were barely troubled during the routine 6-0 victory over their hosts, but the game was overshadowed by racist behaviour in the stands, forcing the match to be halted twice in the first half and fans were warned about their conduct.

Writing on Twitter, sports minister Mr Adams said: “Tonight the @England team have been subjected to disgusting abuse. Racism should never be tolerated. Discrimination must be stamped out from the game and I expect tough action from @UEFA to follow. The @England players have my full support.”

Ms Berger added: “In the face of disgusting racism and such ugly scenes, @England won. But they shouldn’t have been subjected to it. @UEFA have to stop this from happening at all. Now.”

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Match referee Ivan Bebek (left) speaks to England manager Gareth Southgate and Tyrone Mings with regards to racist chanting from fans (Nick Potts/PA)

Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan offered “absolute solidarity” with England’s players, and said she had spoken to the FA after the match.

She said: “There can be no place for racism in football – you have a country behind you tonight. We need fans, clubs, press and politicians to join in solidarity!

“Tonight, I’ve had a conversation with the FA Chief Exec and made clear that the England team has my full support. UEFA must come down hard on racism – a generation of players and fans are watching. Time to set an example.”

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Bulgaria fans in the stands during the Euro 2020 qualifying match (Nick Potts/PA)

Earlier, Bulgarian authorities confirmed the death of a British national.

The unnamed 32-year-old was said to have been acting “aggressively, raging and threatening” when he was discovered at around 10am on Monday ahead of the crunch match in the city.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Interior said no cause of death has been identified.

She told the PA news agency: “A 32-year-old man has sadly died.

“At 10am today, the police received a signal to attend a man in a helpless condition, in the city centre.

“He was a foreign national, from Britain, and he was taken to hospital but he sadly died.

“Police are working to clarify all the circumstances in the incident. There is no further detail on any injuries.

“There will be a forensic examination to find out what the cause of death was.”

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Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his side’s fifth goal with Harry Kane (Nick Potts/PA)

A statement on the authority’s website added that in hospital, the victim “suddenly began to act aggressively, raging and threatening”.

A Foreign Office statement added: “We are supporting the family of a British man who died following an incident in Sofia, and our staff are in contact with the UK and Bulgarian authorities.”

PA

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