Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Fifa boss Gianni Infantino demands racist fans are 'banned for life'

Football chiefs appalled by monkey chant and Nazi salutes during England's Euro 2020 match in Bulgaria

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has called for worldwide life bans on football supporters guilty of racist abuse.

European governing body Uefa has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria and England following Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia, which was stopped twice as Bulgarian fans made Nazi salutes and directed monkey noises at black English players.

Charges against the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) include racist behaviour, throwing objects and disruption of a national anthem by home supporters, while football union chief Borislav Mihaylov resigned Tuesday after the country's prime minister called for him to step down.

The English Football Association has also been charged with disruption of a national anthem.

Infantino called for "all football governing bodies" to unite and produce "new, stronger and more effective ways to eradicate racism in football".

He said in a statement: "As a starting point, I suggest that all competition organisers enact regulations which envisage life bans from stadiums for those who are found guilty of racist behaviour at a football match. Fifa can then enforce such bans at a worldwide level."

Following Uefa's anti-racism protocols, an announcement was made in the 28th minute of the match warning fans that any further incidents of racist abuse could result in it being abandoned, while another stoppage before half-time only added to the appalling spectacle.

A three-step protocol from the governing body would have allowed the officials to take the teams off for a break in play as a second measure before ultimately taking the final step of abandoning the game.

Infantino, who during his time at Uefa introduced those procedures in 2009, added: "We could not have imagined that so shortly thereafter we would again be having to think of how to combat this obnoxious disease that seems to be getting even worse in some parts of the world."

England manager Gareth Southgate felt his players and staff made a "bigger statement than any team ever has done within international football" with their actions in Sofia.

The group decided to finish the match during a half-time discussion, but 10 minutes before the break he spoke to assistant Steve Holland about the likelihood of the match being called off given the racist abuse inside the Vasil Levski Stadium.

Asked about what should be done in terms of punishment, Southgate said: "I really think other people have got to deal with that.

"With respect, the amount I've had to deal with is remarkable. And other people are in positions to be able to affect that.

"I can't give you what would be the right answer for that. So, I think clearly it has got to be dealt with differently.

"The sad reality is that we weren't able to stop incidents happening, and so now something clearly within the investigation has got to take that next step with regard to that, because it's remarkable to have such a spotlight on a game and for that all to happen. But sadly, from a societal perspective, that seems to be what we're dealing with."

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin urged the "football family" to "wage war on the racists". He blamed a "rise in nationalism" across Europe for fuelling racism at matches and said football had become "complacent" in tackling the problem.

The Slovenian added that Uefa has some of the toughest sanctions in sport in dealing with racist supporters and feels criticism of the governing body's handling of the issue is unfair.

"As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about Uefa's approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark," he said.

"Uefa's sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches."

Updated: October 16, 2019 09:08 AM

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