UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin defended the federation’s anti-racism protocols in a statement Tuesday and requested governmental help to “wage war on the racists and to marginalize their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.”
England’s trip to Bulgaria on Monday was interrupted twice due to persistent racist abuse in the stands. The Bulgarian Football Union has since been charged by UEFA for racist behavior, disruption of a national anthem, and other misdemeanors during the Euro 2020 qualifier, while its disgraced president, Borislav Mihaylov, submitted his resignation.
Before UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria’s association, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused European football’s governing body of not adequately dealing with the “stain” of racism.
“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches,” Ceferin said. “The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.
“UEFA is the only football body to ban a player for 10 matches for racist behavior – the most severe punishment level in the game. Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football.”
Ceferin also warned that UEFA cannot be content with those policies, admitting the association was guilty of complacency in thinking the racism issue was a “distant memory” just a few years ago.
“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches, and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs to wage war on the racists and to marginalize their abhorrent views to the fringes of society,” Ceferin’s statement continued.
“Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honor will we make progress.”
A section of Vasil Levski Stadium was already closed for Monday’s match due to racist incidents involving Bulgaria fans during June’s meetings with Kosovo and the Czech Republic.