THE FOOTBALL fraternity has been left in shock and disappointment after Bulgaria were ordered to play just two matches behind closed doors – one suspended for two years – for their fans’ racist abuse of England players in a Euro 2020 qualifier. They have also received a £65,000 fine.
England’s fixture against the Bulgarians was stopped twice and could have been abandoned, but Gareth Southgate’s team played on.
The hosts already had a partial stadium closure for that match on October 15 because of previous racist behaviour. The Bulgaria fans’ behaviour included Nazi salutes and monkey chants.
Anti-discrimination body Fare said it was “disappointed” Bulgaria were not expelled from Euro 2020 qualifying “given their previous record and obvious inability to deal with the problems they face”.
“We think the evidence and circumstances of this match would have justified European football being given a stronger signal on the need to tackle racism,” it added.
“Obtaining justice for racist acts is not easy in any setting, it is clear that football is no exception.
“We will be in touch with Uefa to explore options and maintain that Bulgaria and others in the same situation fundamentally reappraise how they deal with racism.”
England have been fined 5,000 euros (£4,314) after their fans booed the Bulgarian national anthem before the game, while the hosts were fined 10,000 euros (£8,629) for the same offence by their supporters.
Football’s anti-racism campaign, Kick It Out, responded to the punishments with the following statement: “We are disheartened, but not surprised, to learn of Uefa’s response to the racist abuse directed at England players. In our view, they have missed an opportunity to send an uncompromising message on racism and discrimination.
“The current sanctions, however ‘tough’ Uefa think they may be, are clearly not working and leave victims with little faith in their ability to prevent abusive behaviour.
“We feel Uefa’s entire disciplinary process in response to racial discrimination should be overhauled, and urge them to explain the decision-making process behind their sanctions for incidents of discrimination.”