UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has called on football to escalate the “war on the racists” after the shameful scenes that blighted England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria.
Ceferin and Uefa have come under sustained fire for their “weak” response to incidents of racism throughout Europe.
2 Aleksander Ceferin has called for the football family to work to wage war on the racistsCredit: PA:Press Association
But after England’s match in Sofia was twice stopped by the referee after racist chants directed towards Gareth Southgate’s black players, Ceferin insisted Uefa is determined to fight the racist scourge.
Bulgaria Football Association boss Borislav Mikhailov has now resigned after his country's night of shame against the Three Lions.
Ceferin said: “Believe me, Uefa is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football.
“We cannot afford to be content with this. We must always strive to strengthen our resolve.
“The football family – that’s everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work to wage war on the racists and marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.”
Uefa has imposed tougher penalties for racism over the past two years with more ground closures.
Many, though, feel the European governing body is only paying lip-service to anti-racism and is reluctant to actually impose penalties that have teeth.
PM Boris Johnson demanded action in the wake of the appalling incidents in Sofia that FA chairman Greg Clarke revealed had “emotionally” affected members of Southgate’s team and coaching staff.
WHAT HAPPENED IN SOFIA?
- Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings were targeted with sick racist abuse
- Sterling hits back at racists with brilliant Ainsley Harriott GIF tweet
- Marcus Rashford praises captain Ivelin Popov after he begs fans to stop
- Bulgaria boss sensationally claims he didn’t hear racist abuse
- Mings reveals he first heard racial abuse during warm-up
- Bulgarian media tell Gareth Southgate to ‘f*** off’
- England fans sing ‘Who put the ball in the racists’ net?’
- England go on to win crucial Euros qualification tie 6-0
- Bulgaria PM tells FA chief to quit over race attack.. and gets backed by Sterling
- Bulgaria player tells England racist abuse they suffered was ‘pre-planned’
The Three Lions boss was told to "f*** off" by a Bulgarian cameraman in the post match press conference.
And Bulgaria goalkeeper Plamen Iliev has praised the home fans for "behaving well".
Bulgaria had been forced to close a 5,000 seat section of the national stadium following previous racism incidents, with 3,000 seats closed off for next month’s game with the Czech Republic.
Uefa is already studying the reports of the officials and match delegates with a further charge – likely to bring a full stadium closure – due on Wednesday.
Bulgaria could even be slung out of Euro 2020 although that is not thought to be likely as Uefa feels it must follow a stepped punishment regime.
That approach has brought continued criticism, although Ceferin promised stronger action in addition to sanctions which are already “among the toughest in sport”.
He said: 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.
Ceferin, though, suggested Governments – including that of the UK – had to take up some responsibility.”
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He added: "Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area.
“Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress.”