Bulgaria to play game behind closed doors, fined after England racism
Paris (AFP) –
Bulgaria must play their next home game behind closed doors and have been handed a fine of 75,000 euros ($83,000) after racist chanting by supporters marred their Euro 2020 qualifier against England earlier this month, UEFA said Tuesday.
The disciplinary arm of European football's governing body also ordered Bulgaria to play a second match behind closed doors, but that punishment is suspended for a "probationary period" of two years.
The punishment means Bulgaria will play their final Euro 2020 qualifier at home to the Czech Republic, on November 17, in an empty stadium.
UEFA also ordered Bulgaria to display a banner with the slogan "No To Racism" at their next two home games.
The Bulgarian FA was additionally fined a further 10,000 euros for "causing a disturbance during a national anthem" prior to kick-off of the game in Sofia on October 14, which England won 6-0. The English FA was fined 5,000 euros for the same offence.
The match at the Vasil Levski Stadium was halted twice in the first half due to abuse from sections of the home support, including monkey chants and apparent Nazi salutes.
Despite the abuse, the England team opted to complete the match instead of walking off the pitch.
The game was played in a stadium already partially closed after racist incidents during games against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.
Piara Powar, the executive director of the Fare network which works to combat racism and discrimination in football across Europe, believes the punishment is not harsh enough and feels Bulgaria should have been disqualified from the competition.
"We welcome the speed of this decision, but we are disappointed that Bulgaria will not be expelled from the Euro 2020 qualifying competition given their previous record, and obvious inability to deal with the problems they face," he said.
"We think that the evidence and circumstances of this match would have justified European football being given a stronger signal on the need to tackle racism.
"Obtaining justice for racist acts is not easy in any setting, it is clear that football is no exception."
The incidents caused indignation in the football world and were condemned both by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov.
The subsequent fall-out led to Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov resigning along with the country's FA chief, Borislav Mihaylov.
In the wake of the incidents, Bulgarian police said they had identified 16 people suspected of being involved in the "abusive actions".
Bulgaria are winless in seven Euro 2020 qualifiers -- losing four and drawing three -- and occupy last place in Group A. They already out of contention to qualify for next year's finals.
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