October 15, 2019 / 10:41 AM / in 10 months

UEFA says governments need to do more to fight racism

ZURICH (Reuters) - UEFA needs more help from governments to eliminate racism from football, its president Aleksander Ceferin said on Tuesday, after England’s black players were subjected to monkey chants during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria.

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group A - Bulgaria v England - Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria - October 14, 2019 England manager Gareth Southgate applauds fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

European soccer’s ruling body also confirmed in a later statement that it would open disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria for racist behavior, including Nazi salutes and chants, and against England for not providing enough traveling stewards.

The game, won 6-0 by England on Monday, was twice halted in the first half and a public announcement was made under UEFA’s three-step protocol for dealing with racist incidents during matches.

“Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem,” Ceferin said in a UEFA statement. “Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honor will we make progress.”

Slovenian Ceferin said the rise of nationalism across Europe had “fueled some unacceptable behavior and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views”.

Ceferin rejected the suggestion that UEFA was not doing enough, saying that partial stadium closures - the most commonly-used sanction along with fines - cost home teams hundreds of thousands of Euros in lost revenue and attached a stigma to their fans.

“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,” he said. 

“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches. ...Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football.” 

UEFA said that the Bulgarian Football Union had been charged with four counts of infringing its disciplinary code — racist behavior, throwing of objects, disruption of the national anthem and showing replays on the giant screen.

The English FA was charged with disruption of the national anthem and having an insufficient number of traveling stewards.

UEFA said the date of the hearing had not yet been decided.

Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Ed Osmond

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