UEFA have failed in taking a stand against racism… England stars have been let down badly
Nazi salutes and monkey chants.That is what young England football stars – along with black players from all countries – will have to continue to put up with all the time UEFA fails to get a grip of racism.Our nation deserved to feel proud of the brave and dignified manner with which our young players handled themselves amid the unacceptable provocation of what they faced in Sofia earlier this month.Quietly, in line with the protocols, unacceptable racism was pointed out and the very real threat to end the game was made if the situation did not improve.
During a fiery meeting at St George’s Park in the build-up to the game, it was suggested that English players should perhaps go one step further and take matters into their own hands.Instead, they agreed to trust in the UEFA protocols and allow the officials to take charge.They got through the 90 minutes and, on one level, a 6-0 win made their point.But how badly must those players feel let down today by UEFA’s feeble slap on the wrists?"Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem,” Aleksander Ceferin said the following day.
On Tuesday, for all the rhetoric, it became clear that UEFA are not about to step into the breach.It was the perfect opportunity.Thanks to the legacy of Michel Platini, a hopelessly underperforming side such as Bulgaria still have a chance of a place at Euro 2020 thanks to their Nations League performance earning them a play-off place.That should have been instantly removed from them.Sporting sanctions – the sort of punishment meted out to English clubs when they were banned from Europe for five years in the 1980s for hooliganism – is the mechanism to accelerate the process of getting your house in order.We took our medicine and, while still not perfect, largely got our house in order.
Bulgarian nationals are currently completely disenfranchised by their team. They could not be bothered to turn up in great numbers even to watch Premier League heroes in an England shirt. They were not going to come in their droves to the Czech Republic.Closing the gates completely is just a slap on the wrist. The ground would have been mostly empty anyway.But for all the private exasperation within the England camp at UEFA’s lack of substantial backing, the FA was keeping its counsel.Having, from another leg of its spider-like organisation, announced charges against Hartlepool for racist incidents in the game against Dover, the FA knows that there is still plenty of work to do in this country as well.The £4,300 fine for England fans booing the Bulgarian national anthem was a sign that we, too, as a country are not without sin.
Tammy Abraham, who was ready to walk off without a UEFA say-so, considered this worse, though. Tyrone Mings, who has forever made his England debut a racism issue, still felt it was necessary.Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose, who have encountered similar problems elsewhere on international duty, felt it worthy this time of drawing the racism to the attention of the referee – led by Harry Kane.They have every reason to feel completely let down. But don’t worry.Bulgaria have additionally been ordered by UEFA to display a banner at that behind-closed-doors game with the message “No to Racism” in full show of the cameras. And the UEFA logo.Problem sorted then. Aaaaarghhh!