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Bulgaria v England: ‘Football family’ must ‘wage war on the racists’ says Uefa president

The “football family and governments” need to “wage war on the racists”, says Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin after the abuse of England players by home fans in Bulgaria.

Tuesday’s Euro 2020 qualifier between the sides was halted twice due to racist abuse of England players.

Ceferin said football associations cannot solve the issues alone.

“Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress,” he said.

The behaviour of Bulgaria fans, which included Nazi salutes and monkey chants, has been widely condemned by players and politicians.

The president of the Bulgarian Football Association resigned on Tuesday after being told to quit by the country’s prime minister.

In a statement, Ceferin said Uefa was committed to doing everything it can “to eliminate this disease from football”.

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

The British government said they would write to Uefa to demand more action.

Uefa statement in full

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

“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.

“Uefa, in close cooperation with the Fare network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

“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 ten matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game. 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.

“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs 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. Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress.”

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