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Anti-racism charity claims education is more important than sanctions

Stadium closures as a punishment for racist behaviour are “a nonsense”, according to the chief executive of Show Racism The Red Card.

Bulgaria will learn their fate on Monday over a UEFA charge related to the racist behaviour of some of their supporters during the Euro 2020 qualifier against England on October 14.

England’s black players were targeted for abuse in Sofia, and some supporters were seen making Nazi salutes.

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Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, said football had to “wage war” on racism and Bulgaria could face a stadium closure for one or more games, a points deduction or even disqualification from the tournament.

But Ged Grebby, the founder and boss of anti-racism charity SRTRC, stresses that education is far more important than sanctions.

“In terms of closing stadia I think it’s a nonsense,” he told the PA news agency.

“There’s a danger that you hit the ordinary fans. You need the good people on board and I don’t think you get that by clampdowns.

“The far right were organised in that example – they need banning. If you ban all fans it works against you.”

A Bulgaria fan holds up a 'No Respect' sweatshirt

A Bulgaria fan holds up a ‘No Respect’ sweatshirt (Nick Potts/PA)

Grebby called on UEFA and domestic leagues to invest more in anti-racism education programmes.

“Ultimately unless they put more money into anti-racism education, all the sanctions in the world and all the bans in the world don’t change attitudes,” he said.

“It would be simple to throw Bulgaria out of the tournament wouldn’t it? I notice the Bulgarians have already given out two-year banning orders. If you want to give out a strong message, two years is not a strong message.

“I don’t like lifetime bans, you’re not leaving yourself open to changing attitudes. It has to involve education and it depends how they react to that education.”

The match was initially halted in the 28th minute and the first step of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol was invoked, with a stadium announcement being made urging the abuse to stop.

When it continued, there was another stoppage just before half-time, although it was later clarified that this did not constitute the enactment of the second step of the protocol, which requires the teams to be taken off the pitch temporarily. The third and final step of the protocol is to abandon the match.

England’s players and staff were widely praised for their behaviour in the face of the abuse, and they completed the match, running out 6-0 winners.

Bulgaria’s football association president Borislav Mihaylov, who criticised comments made by England players about the potential for racist behaviour in the build-up to the match, has since resigned.

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov has resigned since the 6-0 defeat to England

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov has resigned since the 6-0 defeat to England (Nick Potts/PA)

So too has national coach Krasimir Balakov, who claimed on the night not to have heard the abuse. He has been replaced by Georgi Dermendzhiev.

Bulgaria were also charged with throwing objects, disruption of a national anthem and showing replays on a giant screen.

England were charged with disruption of a national anthem and with providing insufficient stewards.