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Bulgarian FA charged by UEFA following racist abuse of England players

The English Football Association has been charged with disruption of a national anthem and failing to provide sufficient stewards.

England players were subjected to racist abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria (Nick Potts/PA).
England players were subjected to racist abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria (Nick Potts/PA).

By PA Sport Staff

UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria and England following Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

Charges against the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) include the racist behaviour, throwing of objects and disruption of a national anthem by home supporters, and showing replays on a giant screen.

The English Football Association has also been charged with disruption of a national anthem, as well as providing an insufficient number of travelling stewards.

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Stewards among Bulgaria fans in the stands in Sofia (Nick Potts/PA)

According to a UEFA statement, the case will be dealt with by the governing body’s control, ethics and disciplinary body, with the date of the meeting yet to be confirmed.

An FA spokesperson told the PA news agency: “We acknowledge the charges but will not be commenting further as it is an ongoing process.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had earlier urged the “football family” to “wage war on the racists”.

Ceferin blamed a rise in nationalism across Europe for fuelling racism at matches and said the governing body was committed to eradicating the “disease” from football.

“Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football,” Ceferin said in a statement.

The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views. Aleksander Ceferin

“We cannot afford to be content with this, we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.

“Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area.”

Slovenian Ceferin said football had become complacent in tackling racism.

“There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory,” he said.

“The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.

“The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.”

Sports minister Nigel Adams has written to Ceferin on behalf of the government.

“The terrible events last night demonstrate clearly that much more needs to be done to stamp racism out of the game, once and for all,” he wrote.

“I urge UEFA to take urgent action to ensure that all football authorities and fans are clear that the consequences of failing to tackle this issue will be severe.

“The England team has my full support and I welcome tough action from UEFA in response.”

Adams, who also addressed the issue in Parliament, praised the conduct of England’s players and management in Sofia.

“As I am sure you will agree, no player, manager, supporter, or participant in sport should have to tolerate discrimination of any kind,” he added.

“The England players and management showed tremendous dignity and I am incredibly proud with how they conducted themselves throughout the match.

“It was a step in the right direction to see the UEFA protocol engaged during the match, but there is much more that needs to be done.

“I appreciate that is it for the English FA to work directly with UEFA on this important issue, including what action will be taken next following the events of last night.”

Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia was stopped twice as Bulgarian fans made Nazi salutes and directed monkey noises at black England players.

Following UEFA’s anti-racism protocols, an announcement was made in the 28th minute warning fans that any further incidents could result in the match being abandoned, while another pause before half-time only added to the nasty spectacle.

A three-step protocol from the governing body would have allowed the officials to take the teams off for a break in play as a second measure before ultimately taking the final step of abandoning the game.

Ceferin believes UEFA has some of the toughest sanctions in sport in dealing with racist supporters and feels criticism of the governing body’s handling of the issue is unfair.

“As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about UEFA’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark,” his statement continued.

“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches.

“The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.

“UEFA is the only football body to ban a player for 10 matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game.”

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Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov claimed not to hear any racism on Monday night (Nick Potts/PA)

Within minutes of Ceferin’s statement on Tuesday, the BFU announced the resignation of its president Borislav Mihaylov.

Explaining the decision, the BFU said the current position was detrimental to Bulgarian football but suggested Mihaylov could assist the governing body in a different capacity.

“His position is a consequence of the recent tensions, an environment that is detrimental to Bulgarian football and the Bulgarian Football Union,” read the BFU’s statement.

“After many years spent in the post and with his many contacts at a high international level, Mr Mihaylov expresses his firm readiness to continue helping in the development of Bulgarian football in every possible way.”

PA

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