PFA calls for UEFA disciplinary overhaul and tougher sanctions for racist abuse

The players' union believes an opportunity to send out a strong anti-racism message across the continent has been missed

The Professional Footballer’s Association is the latest organisation to call for an overhaul to UEFA's disciplinary processes after expressing their “disappointment” at the sanctions issued to Bulgaria for the racist behaviour of supporters during a match against England earlier this month.

England’s 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying victory in Sofia on October 14 was marred by racist chants and Nazi salutes from sections of the crowd, with the match paused twice by officials due to the incidents.

BFU president and head coach Krasimir Balakov quit their respective posts in wake of the game, with UEFA urged to make an example of Bulgaria in order send out a strong message.

But their decision to impose a two-match stadium ban – the second of which is suspended for two years – and a €75,000 fine has been heavily criticised by anti-discrimination campaigners.

The PFA have now joined the chorus of those criticising UEFA’s decision and calling for change in its disciplinary procedures, including throwing teams out of tournaments and a greater level of diversity within its ethics and disciplinary committee.

“The PFA is disappointed at the sanctions announced today, levied by UEFA towards Bulgaria in the wake of the disgraceful racist incidents witnessed two weeks ago,” read a PFA statement.

“While the sanctions are in line with current UEFA disciplinary guidelines, this only serves to highlight that these guidelines need to be overhauled and far stronger deterrents imposed - not ruling out expulsions from competitions. Only then can the issue of racism be seriously confronted.

“In addition, there is currently no BAME representation on UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Committee. This lack of diversity, we believe, will influence the way in which racist incidents are dealt with by the panel. Diversity on the pitch must be reflected at every level of the game, not just on the field of play.”

The FA's anti-racism campaign, Kick It Out, said the punishment leaves “victims with little faith in their ability to prevent abusive behaviour."

Piara Powar, executive director of anti-discrimination campaigners Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), said UEFA should have sent out a “stronger signal” in an effort to combat racism.

The group is also planning to contract UEFA to discuss possible sanctions in future instances of racist behaviour.