FIFA have taken the first steps towards clamping down on racism in football by writing a ‘strongly worded letter’ to the Bulgarian FA. The letter informs the Bulgarians that FIFA are ‘not angry, but disappointed’ at their fans’ behaviour towards England players.
Bulgaria were ordered to play two matches behind closed doors – one suspended for two years – and issued a £64k fine.
They were also told ‘to take a long hard look’ at themselves and ‘think carefully’ about how their behaviour ‘might have affected others’.
Bulgaria were already halfway through a partial two-game ban after being found guilty of racist behaviour in matches against the Czech Republic and Kosovo in June.
But FIFA insist the problem is not unique to Bulgaria and said it’s a problem for football authorities across the world to tackle together.
A FIFA spokesman said, ‘Everyone needs to do their bit. If England hadn’t selected black players this wouldn’t have happened, so to lay all the blame on the Bulgarians is perhaps a little naïve.’
In 2015, Croatia were docked a point from their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign after fans marked a swastika on their pitch for a game against Italy, which was behind closed doors.
Quizzed as to why Bulgaria were not issued a similar penalty a FIFA spokesman said that ‘with hindsight we felt that the docked point affected the league table and, as much as we’re keen to tackle racism, we don’t really want responses to the problem to impact on the game.’