SOFIA (Reuters) – Any England players who walk off the pitch after suffering racist abuse should be punished if they breach a UEFA protocol, Bulgarian soccer chief Borislav Mihaylov said on Thursday.
Striker Tammy Abraham said on Tuesday that England players were ready to leave the pitch if subjected to racist abuse in Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic on Friday and Bulgaria in Sofia three days later.
Bulgarian supporters made monkey chants at visiting black players when England last travelled to Sofia for a European qualifier in 2011, prompting UEFA to fine the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) 40,000 euros ($44,072.00).
In an official letter to the European soccer body, the BFU president on Thursday expressed his “extreme disappointment” at the England players’ comments.
He said if they did not respect UEFA’s three-step protocol for racism, which can lead to the referee abandoning a match if warnings to the crowd do not stop the abuse, then that “should be punishable according to the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations.”
Mihaylov also wrote to UEFA last month to express indignation and disappointment over comments by England manager Gareth Southgate about the prospect of racism at the Group A qualifier in Sofia. [L5N2645C8]
In the latest letter, he said he felt the “fixation” on potential incidents during the game in Sofia did not do justice to the Bulgarian fans, the general public and the BFU’s efforts.
UEFA ordered the partial closure of Bulgaria’s Vasil Levski stadium after racist behaviour by their supporters in Euro 2020 qualifiers with the Czechs and Kosovo in June.
England top the group with 12 points and will qualify for next year’s finals if they beat the second-placed Czechs.
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Alan Baldwin and Ken Ferris)