John­son and In­fantino tell Uefa to pun­ish Bul­garia

Calls for coun­try to be ejected from Euro 2020 Eng­land fac­ing charge over ‘an­them dis­rup­tion’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Tom Mor­gan SPORTS NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Uefa faced un­prece­dented pres­sure last night to ex­pel Bul­garia from com­pet­i­tive foot­ball amid mount­ing out­rage at fail­ures by au­thor­i­ties to pre­vent racist abuse against Eng­land play­ers.

Sanc­tions were launched against the Bul­gar­ian Foot­ball Union af­ter an af­ter­noon in which its pres­i­dent re­signed un­der the or­ders of his prime min­is­ter and the fed­er­a­tion’s head­quar­ters were raided by po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion.

How­ever, Uefa was fac­ing the fiercest crit­i­cism of all over its ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to tackle dis­crim­i­na­tion. Gianni In­fantino, the Fifa pres­i­dent, sug­gested foot­ball was fail­ing in its duty of care as he called for “new, stronger and more ef­fec­tive ways to erad­i­cate racism in foot­ball”. The most pow­er­ful fig­ure in the global game also in­di­cated some pun­ish­ments fac­ing Bul­garia could be ex­tended world­wide.

Boris John­son was also among those to de­mand Uefa acted swiftly, while Fare, an anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion char­ity whose spot­ters claimed to see stew­ards join­ing in the racist chant­ing, said the only op­tion was to ex­pel Bul­garia from Euro 2020.

Gareth South­gate, the Eng­land man­ager, twice asked for play to be halted dur­ing the first half of his side’s 6-0 win, first af­ter mon­key chants were aimed at de­fender Ty­rone Mings. Eng­land have since pledged to en­sure staff will check the men­tal state of those af­fected.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the match, Kick It Out and for­mer Eng­land striker Ian Wright led blis­ter­ing at­tacks on Uefa over “tooth­less” at­tempts to pre­vent racism. Since then, Harry Kane, the Eng­land cap­tain, led calls for tougher pun­ish­ments, while Down­ing Street said the Prime Min­is­ter was call­ing on Uefa to con­duct a “swift in­ves­ti­ga­tion with tough penal­ties to fol­low”.

Bul­garia, who were al­ready serv­ing a par­tial sta­dium ban for racism by fans in June, are now fac­ing a min­i­mum pun­ish­ment of points de­duc­tion and pos­si­ble tour­na­ment ex­clu­sion af­ter be­ing charged with “racist be­hav­iour (chants, Nazi salutes)” and “throw­ing of ob­jects”.

How­ever, John Barnes and Paul Canoville, two black play­ers who faced some of the worst racist abuse in foot­balling his­tory, told The Daily Tele­graph that the gov­ern­ing bod­ies were still strug­gling to un­der­stand the “com­plex­ity” of racism in wider so­ci­ety. “Bul­garia’s racist fans do not care if the team are kicked out or fined,” Barnes said.

Eng­land’s play­ers had been com­mended for their tough and dig­ni­fied re­sponse to racism on Mon­day night, how­ever the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion was left dis­ap­pointed by news that it, too, faced charges from Uefa for pro­vid­ing an “in­suf­fi­cient

‘Uefa is com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to elim­i­nate this dis­ease from foot­ball’

num­ber of trav­el­ling stew­ards”. The FA also faces a po­ten­tial fine for vis­it­ing fans’ “dis­rup­tion of na­tional an­them”.

Alek­sander Ce­ferin, the Uefa pres­i­dent, de­fended his record on racism and blamed a rise in na­tion­al­ism across Europe for the “dis­ease”. “Be­lieve me, Uefa is com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to elim­i­nate this dis­ease from foot­ball,” he said. “Foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tions them­selves can­not solve this prob­lem. Gov­ern­ments, too, need to do more in this area.”

Later, in Sofia, po­lice spe­cial forces raided the head­quar­ters of the BFU fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Borislav Mikhailov, the fed­er­a­tion’s pres­i­dent, who played in goal for Read­ing dur­ing the mid-1990s and whose goal­keeper son Niko­lay spent three years on Liver­pool’s books. Of­fi­cers were said to have been search­ing for doc­u­ments re­lated to Bul­gar­ian ref­er­ees.

Fol­low­ing the mon­key noises and chants, Bul­gar­ian prime min­is­ter Boyko Borissov or­dered Mikhailov’s im­me­di­ate res­ig­na­tion.

Af­ter full-time in Eng­land’s 6-0 vic­tory at the Vasil Levski Na­tional Sta­dium, mem­bers of the Bul­gar­ian team con­tin­ued to ex­press doubts about the ex­tent of the abuse. Pla­men Iliev, the goal­keeper, even claimed the home fans “be­haved well”, sug­gest­ing South­gate’s play­ers “over­re­acted a bit”.

How­ever, Fare, which had been com­mis­sioned by Uefa to keep an eye on abuse, had a dif­fer­ent take. “We be­lieve and are call­ing for the Bul­gar­ian FA to be kicked out of the Euro 2020 com­pe­ti­tion,” a spokesman told The Tele­graph. “Uefa should make an ex­am­ple of them, the le­gal ar­moury is there.” The or­gan­i­sa­tion has since told Uefa that stew­ards at the game may have been com­plicit in the racist abuse.

South­gate and Kane came close to lead­ing the team off en­tirely af­ter Mings and Ra­heem Ster­ling raised the alarm early in the first half. Kane has since called for “stronger pun­ish­ments”.

In West­min­ster, sports min­is­ter Nigel Adams has writ­ten to Uefa to out­line his con­cerns. Diane Ab­bott, the shadow home sec­re­tary, said she was “dis­gusted” while Dr Rosena Allin-khan, the shadow sports min­is­ter, raised the is­sue in Par­lia­ment. She told the Com­mons: “Uefa must come down hard – fines are not enough, sta­dium bans are a must and for­feit­ing games or ex­pul­sion can­not be ruled out.”

In­fantino, who dur­ing his time at Uefa in­tro­duced the three-step pro­to­col en­acted in Sofia, added: “I call on all foot­ball bod­ies to join us and think to­gether of new, stronger and more ef­fec­tive ways to erad­i­cate racism in foot­ball. As a start, I sug­gest that all com­pe­ti­tion or­gan­is­ers en­act reg­u­la­tions which en­vis­age life bans from sta­di­ums.”

Stay­ing calm: Eng­land coach Gareth South­gate talks to ref­eree Ivan Be­bek

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