Organisations campaigning against racism in football have expressed disappointment with the penalty handed to the Bulgarian Football Union by Uefa over the Hitler salutes and racist chants at the October 14 England-Bulgaria match at Sofia’s Vassil Levski national stadium.
On October 29, Uefa ordered Bulgaria to host two matches behind closed doors, with one suspended for two years, and fined the Bulgarian Football Union 75 000 euro.
Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation, said that it was “disheartened, but not surprised” at Uefa’s response.
“In our view, they have missed another opportunity to send an uncompromising message on racism and discrimination.
“The current sanctions, however ‘tough’ Uefa think they may be, are clearly not working and leave victims with little faith in their ability to prevent abusive behaviour,” Kick It Out said.
“We feel Uefa’s entire disciplinary process in response to racial discrimination should be overhauled, and urge them to explain the decision-making process behind their sanctions for incidents of discrimination,” the organisation said.
Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), said: “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.
“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,” Powar said.
“Obtaining justice for racist acts is not easy in any setting, it is clear that football is no exception. We will be in touch with Uefa to explore options and maintain that Bulgaria and others in the same situation fundamentally reappraise how they deal with racism.”
On its website, the Bulgarian Football Union said that it wanted to emphasise that the incidents on October 14 at Vassil Levski stadium “which provoked a huge international response and created great public tension, failed to prevent the professional and effective response of all departments and units of the headquarters”.
“Thanks to the diligent and competent work of the BFU administration and the union’s legal partners, as well as the persistent efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and ethnic intolerance, the Bulgarian national team avoided more severe sanctions.
“We sincerely believe that in the future the Bulgarian football fans will prove with their behaviour that they have unjustifiably become the subject of accusations of lack of tolerance and respect for their opponents. This will be of benefit to all – for football players as well as fans, as well as for the international sporting prestige of Bulgaria,” the Bulgarian Football Union said.