Football lovers across the globe have branded UEFA “embarrassing” and a “joke” as their punishment to Bulgaria for fan racism against England was met with widespread criticism on Tuesday night.
Kick It Out, Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), and players past and present slammed the country’s two-match stadium closure and £64,650 fine, while the Professional Footballers’ Association raised concerns that there are no Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation on the UEFA disciplinary board.
The PFA said the ruling “only serves to highlight that these guidelines need to be overhauled and far stronger deterrents imposed – not ruling out expulsions from competitions”, as both FARE and Sky Sports football expert Clinton Morrison called on Bulgaria to be chucked out of Euro 2020.
Morrison told Sky Sports News he was personally “hurt” by the ruling and insisted both the European governing body and England’s Football Association should be doing much more to stamp out racism.
He said: “Everyone knows me. I’m a bubbly sort of character. But this is close to my heart because I’m a black person and it’s not good when you’re getting racially abused.
“I don’t play football anymore but these players are out on the pitch, and young kids are aspiring to be like them, and you’re hearing all sorts of racism and they come out with something like that. UEFA need to look at themselves.
“It doesn’t surprise me and hurts me to say that. I expected that from UEFA and it’s not good. What kind of statement are they making when Nicklas Bendtner is fined more heavily for wearing the wrong logo on his shorts?
“It’s an embarrassment. It’s a joke. The more we talk about it, the more people think it’s okay to do it. I don’t know how it’s going to get sorted out. We keep talking and it’s not getting any better.”
UEFA’s ruling came on the night an FA Cup game was being replayed between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town after the previous fixture was abandoned due to Haringey’s players walking off the pitch because of racist abuse from Yeovil fans.
Kick It Out’s head of development Troy Townsend expressed concern to Sky Sports News that the match was being replayed before the FA had reached a ruling over the incident.
Townsend also said UEFA need to reconsider their approach to racism after handing out “weak” sanctions to Bulgaria.
FARE executive director Piara Powar said Bulgaria should have been handed a harsher punishment.
“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.
“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.”
Morrison added: “More things are going to keep happening, and these black players are going to keep walking off – and there’s going to be no games and these fans have to know that.
“It’s the same here with that Yeovil game. How’s nothing been done about that by the FA here? They’re replaying the game but nothing’s been done; racially abused, missiles thrown at them. They were right to walk off the pitch and more people are going to start walking off.
“The racism thing is getting beyond a joke. Sitting here as a black person myself, and experiencing it before – it just hurts me. I’ve said it so many times; I can come here and talk about it loads but UEFA needs to do it, they need to come out and make a big statement, and the FA needs to do something too.”