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Bulgaria fans’ racism: Racist abuse of England players leads to stadium ban


England boss Gareth Southgate speaks to officials during the game in Sofia

England players chose to continue after the game in Sofia was halted twice

Bulgaria have been ordered to play two matches behind closed doors – one suspended for two years – for their fans’ racist abuse of England players in a Euro 2020 qualifier.

England’s 6-0 win in Sofia was stopped twice and could have been abandoned, but the visitors chose to play on.

The hosts already had a partial stadium closure for that match on October 15 because of previous racist behaviour.

Bulgaria have also been fined 75,000 euros (£65,000) by Uefa.

The Bulgaria fans’ behaviour included Nazi salutes and monkey chants.

The punishment means they will play their final Euro 2020 qualifying game against the Czech Republic on 17 November in an empty ground.

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.”

The Football Association said: “While we acknowledge Uefa’s ruling today, a huge challenge still exists around racism and discrimination in society.

“Football has its part to play, and must do so, but it is for all to recognise the seriousness of the problem.

“While those responsible for such deplorable behaviour at home or abroad need to be held to account, we should not lose sight of the importance of education programmes in finding a long-term solution.

“That has to be the way forward to help address the root cause of such disgusting behaviour.”

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.

Aleksander Ceferin, the president of European football’s governing body, said following the match against England that the “football family and governments” needed to “wage war on the racists”.

After the game, both the president of the Bulgaria Football Union (BFU), Borislav Mihaylov, and Bulgaria manager Krasimir Balakov resigned.

Authorities in Bulgaria have identified 16 suspects and made 12 arrests since the match.

Four people were fined and given two-year bans, with others remaining under investigation.

“We sincerely believe that in the future, Bulgarian football fans will prove with their behaviour that they have unjustifiably become the subject of accusations of lack of tolerance and respect for their opponents,” the Bulgaria Football Union said in a statement.

“This will be of benefit to all – for both football players and fans, as well as for Bulgaria’s international sporting prestige.”

In 2015, Croatia were docked a point from their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign after fans marked a swastika on their pitch for a game against Italy, which was behind closed doors.