UEFA president Ceferin calls for 'war on racists'

Racist chanting and far-right gestures from home supporters overshadowed England's Euro 2020 qualifying 6-0 win against Bulgaria in Sofia.

"The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views," UEFA said in its statement.   -  Getty Images

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin called on the "football family" and governments to "wage war on the racists" after England players became the latest targets for sickening abuse.

Ceferin launched a staunch defence on Tuesday of the governing body's approach to tackling racism and called for the large-scale response after the scenes that marred England's 6-0 win over Bulgaria.

The Euro 2020 qualifying match in Sofia was overshadowed by the sound of monkey chants and the sight of Nazi salutes from a section of home supporters.

England debutant Tyrone Mings called the disgraceful scenes to the attention of the assistant referee, triggering the first implementation of a new three-step UEFA protocol.

The match was paused and an announcement was made over the public address system at the Vasil Levski National Stadium, urging offending fans to desist.

READ | UEFA to wait on reports before acting on Bulgaria racism

It did not escalate to the second and third protocol stages, which would have seen the players return to the dressing rooms ahead of a possible abandonment, but the damage had nonetheless been done.

UEFA has come under fire for its handling of racism within football, but Ceferin insists the European organisation has adopted a tough stance and he urged wider society to take a stand on the issue.

Ceferin said: "Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. We cannot afford to be content with this; we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

"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 marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.

ALSO READ | England players react to racist chants in Bulgaria

"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 honour will we make progress."

Bulgaria Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov resigned on Tuesday after government pressure on him to make way for new leadership.

"There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory," Ceferin said.

"The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.

"The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.

"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.

"UEFA, in close cooperation with the FARE network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

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

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