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Bulgaria sanctioned over Euro qualifier racist chants

October 29, 2019

The Bulgaria-England match was marred by racist comments and gestures from home fans in Sofia. Bulgaria will play a home game in an empty stadium and also pay a fine in response.

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England players during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier at Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria
Image: picture-alliance/empics/PA Wire/N. Potts

European football's governing body UEFA on Tuesday punished Bulgaria for the Nazi salutes and racist chanting by some of its fans during a qualifier against England two weeks ago.

England's 6-0 win over Bulgaria was halted twice after home fans taunted visiting black players with Nazi salutes and monkey chants. 

UEFA's disciplinary panel imposed fines totaling €85,000 ($94,000) on the Bulgarian football federation and, in a further financial hit, ordered the side to play an upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying match at home in an empty stadium, depriving it of revenue from ticket sales to the tune of around €100,000.

Bulgaria was further charged with causing a disturbance during England' national anthem. The English Football Association was fined €5,000 for a similar charge.

Bulgaria's national soccer body was put on probation for two years, which should include most of the 2022 World Cup qualifying season.

Read more: England's trip to Bulgaria marred by terrace racism fears

'Too lenient'

Kick It Out, which campaigns for equality in football, said in a statement that UEFA's sanctions "leave victims with little faith in their ability to prevent abusive behavior."

Piara Powar, chief of the Fare network, which works to combat racism and discrimination in football across Europe, said the punishment was not harsh enough.

"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."

England player Marcus Rashford with team manager Gareth Southgate
England player Marcus Rashford with team manager Gareth Southgate Image: picture-alliance/empics/D. Klein

Outrage

England's black players Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings were among those targeted, with fans making monkey noises when they had the ball. Others were also seen performing Hitler salutes.

Football fans from across the world vented their outrage on social media. Bulgarian fans attempted to apologize for the behavior of some of their compatriots in the stands.

The Bulgaria Football Union (BFU) president and the national team's head coach resigned following the game, and authorities have identified 16 suspects and made 12 arrests in connection with the incident.

kw/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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