England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria was twice halted before half-time due to racist abuse directed at the England players.
England captain Harry Kane spoke to referee Ivan Bebek as per part one of UEFA’s three-step protocol. The second step would lead the referee to suspend the match for a period of time and the third would be to abandon the match.
The game, which England won 6-0, was stopped for a PA announcement before play resumed. But after the abuse continued, England boss Gareth Southgate spoke to the fourth official and the match was briefly halted before half-time.
After the game, the FA released said in a statement: “The FA can confirm that England players were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting while playing in the EURO 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria. This is unacceptable at any level of the game and our immediate focus is supporting the players and staff involved. As we are sadly aware, this is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behavior in society, let alone in football. We will be asking UEFA to investigate as a matter of urgency.”
Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett reported hearing one fan clearly shout ‘Hey, monkey’ as Rashford passed the ball.’
The game continued after half-time, with England ultimately winning the tie 6-0.
Anti-racism group Kick It Out said in a statement: “We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England’s men’s team tonight by Bulgaria supporters – including TV footage which appeared to show Nazi salutes and monkey noises. We applaud Gareth Southgate, his staff and players for the actions taken in reporting the abhorrent abuse, and offer our full support to the entire squad, their families and anyone affected by those appalling scenes. We are encouraged that the protocol was initially enforced by the match officials, but UEFA must explain why players weren’t sent to the dressing room during Step Two, as is clearly stated in the rules.TV footage also clearly shows that racist abuse continued in the second half, so it is unacceptable that Step Three was not enforced. This match should have been abandoned by the officials. It’s now time for UEFA to step up and show some leadership. For far too long they have consistently failed to take effective action. The fact Bulgaria are already hosting a game with a partial stadium closure for racist abuse shows that UEFA’s sanctions are not fit for purpose. There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If UEFA care at all about tackling discrimination – and if the Equal Game campaign means anything – then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow.”
Bulgaria were fined 40,000 Euros in 2011 after fans abused Ashley Young, Ashley Cole and Theo Walcott during a Euro 2012 qualifier.