The government is severing its relations with the Bulgarian Football Union until BFU head Borislav Mihailov resigns, Minister of Sport Krassen Kralev said after talks with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, the morning after the Bulgarian national team was defeated six-nil by England at a match marred by racist behaviour in the stands.
The match was suspended twice and came close to being called off as Bulgarians directed racist abuse at England player Tyrone Mings, as well as at Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford. Bulgarians were photographed giving Hitler salutes.
Kralev said that Borissov had ordered a suspension of relations, including financial ones, with the BFU until Mihailov resigned. The resignation was sought because of the overall state of Bulgarian football, Kralev said.
In a Facebook post, Borissov said: “I also strongly condemn the behaviour of some of those present at the stadium. It is unacceptable that Bulgaria, which is one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and people of different ethnicities and religions live in peace, should be associated with racism and xenophobia”.
The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” strongly condemned the racist insults and chants from the Bulgarian fan sector during the Euro 2020 qualifying match.
“Nazi salutes have no place in any stadium. Such behaviour by the public is a shameful stain for both the players on the pitch and the name of the team who accept it uncritically,” Shalom said.
“We hope that the Bulgarian Football Union will take into account the recommendations of UEFA and will implement lasting and working measures to solve this serious problem, which our organization has repeatedly signalled.”
The Football Association’s website quoted England manager Gareth Southgate as saying: “I have to say the officials were onto everything very quickly and we reported everything immediately when we heard things”.
“We had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee and I was in contact with the players all the way through the first half and then at half time,” Southgate said.
“We know it’s an unacceptable situation but I think we’ve managed to make two statements: by winning the game but also by raising awareness of everybody to the situation as the game was stopped twice.
“I know for some people, that won’t be enough, but as a group we were on board with that process,” he said.
The website quoted Mings as saying that it had been a great win “overshadowed by a few disappointing chants”.
“It was quite clear to hear on the pitch but we showed a great response and we showed a great togetherness and ultimately we let the football do the talking,” Mings said.
“Hopefully, the higher powers will deal with the incidents, but we couldn’t do much more than what we did on the pitch.” He said that England team members and staff had made the decision at half-time to complete the match.
In a statement on October 15, Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation, said: “We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England 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 this 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,” Kick It Out said.