Fifa confirms Bulgaria’s one-match empty stadium ban
Fifa has confirmed the sanction imposed on Bulgaria’s national football team, which will play its next competitive match in front of empty stands, the sport’s world governing body said on February 5.
Fifa’s appeal committee rejected, on January 25, the appeals lodged by the Bulgarian and Hungarian football associations, which have been notified of the decision on February 4, Fifa said in a statement.
Last month, Fifa said that it handed one-match empty stadium bans on the two countries for incidents of racist abuse stemming from two separate matches – Hungary’s friendly match against Israel on August 15 2012 and Bulgaria’s World Cup qualifier against Denmark on October 12 2012.
Bulgarian supporters subjected Denmark’s Patrick Mtiliga to racist abuse “each time he touched the ball after entering the field in the 54th minute,” Fifa said in its initial ruling. Racist chants prompted match officials to ask for a public address warning to fans and although it was toned down, abusive remarks were still heart until the end of the match.
Fifa’s appeals committee also upheld the fines handed to the two football federations – 40 000 Swiss francs in Hungary’s case and 35 000 Swiss francs for Bulgarian Football Union (BFU).
At the time of the initial announcement, BFU president Borislav Mihailov said he considered the penalty “disproportionate” when compared to the “discriminatory behaviour and incidents of racism from a very small section of the public in attendance.” The imposition of the fine on top of the lost revenue from playing the match in an empty stadium made the ruling “unfair”, he said.
Bulgaria will thus have to play its next World Cup qualifying match at home, against Malta on March 22, in an empty Vassil Levski national stadium. Four days later, the team will travel to Denmark for their away fixture.
BFU and its Hungarian counterpart, MLZS, were warned that should racist incidents occur again, Fifa’s disciplinary committee “would be left with no other option than to impose harsher sanctions, which could go as far as forfeiting a match, a points deduction, or disqualification from a competition.”
(Photo: juan carlos arellano/sxc.hu)