England players consult officials after hearing racist chants.

A study by the Home Office found that the number of hate crimes reported in football games had risen by 47% in the 2018/19 season.

So far during 2019/20 season, the United Kingdom’s professional leagues have seen at least ten reports of racism.

Does that mean the current sanctions given by football governing bodies are doing enough to stamp out racism in football?

TUXtra reporter Cameron Calvert went to find out more.

Shocking scenes in Sofia as a section of Bulgaria supporters gesture Nazi salutes.

England travelled to Sofia in mid-October to face Bulgaria in an important UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier.

However the game was tarnished by monkey chants and Nazi salutes from the home spectators, despite the ground being particularly closed due to being found guilty of racism during qualifiers against Kosovo and Czech Republic the previous month.

It took just 28 minutes for the games first stoppage and despite an announcement in the stadium stating the game would be abandoned if the abuse continued, the game was stopped for a second time in the 43rd minute.

Despite doubts, the game continued in the second half and England convincingly scored three more times to win 6-0.

Following the resignation of the Bulgaria Football Union president, Borislav Mihaylov, four Bulgarian spectators were arrested days after the fixture.

UEFA went on to fine Bulgaria £64,640 and order them to play two matches behind closed doors (with the second match suspended during a probationary period of two years).

The Bulgarian FA then launched its own campaign to tackle racism across sport in the country.

UEFA seemingly have stepped up their punishment but many, including ITV pundit Ian Wright, feel that not enough is being done to tackle this issue.

Senior football commentator, Clive Tyldesley, has broadcasted live on England international matches for ITV since 1998, and was in Sofia commentating on England’s clash with Bulgaria.

Tuxtra spoke to Clive after the game to get his take on the proceedings that stained this qualifying match.

Southgate afterwards stated that England must get its own house in order before becoming embroiled in a racism debate, hinting at the ugly scenes in September at Hartlepool.

Since the match between Hartlepool United and Dover Athletic, where two supporters have since been arrested, there has been a number of incidents in the United Kingdom:

Victoria Park, home of Hartlepool United.

Chief Executive Officer of the North Riding FA, Steven Wade, described these incidents as “abhorrent” and had no place in the game.

“It is extremely disappointing that cases such of these have taken place this season,” He said.

“It is imperative that the sanctions handed down are proportionate and act as a real deterrent.”

The North Riding FA have a no-nonsense approach when it comes to hate crimes in football.

Steven said: “We closely follow The FA’s discipline guidelines to ensure that any allegation of an aggravated breach is investigated fully, and if there is enough evidence to prefer a charge against an individual or individuals, we will issue this without hesitation.”

It’s not just the UK and Bulgaria that has a problem with racism however.

Lazio were charged with racial abuse that took place at the start of the month against French side Stade Rennais and received a partial stadium closure for their next Europa League match.

Italy will now use VAR cameras to tackle racist chants but despite this, Brescia forward Mario Balotelli was still racially abused in a game against Hellas Verona.

Balotelli reacted by kicking the ball into the crowd and threatened to walk off the pitch.

Brescia ultras defended their Verona counterparts after they received a partial stadium ban, calling Balotelli ‘arrogant’.

Elsewhere in Europe, Shakhtar Donetsk‘s attacker Taison was sent off after kicking the ball into the crowd and gesturing at Dynamo Kyiv fans.

He left the pitch in tears after being racially abused and was made to serve his one match suspension and

The Brazilian later posted on Instagram that he would “never be silent in the face of racist abuse”.

Dynamo Kyiv were fined £16,000 pounds by the Ukrainian FA and forced to play one match behind closed doors.

Most recently, Eredivisie teams stood still for the first minute of their fixtures on November 23/24, to protest against racism in the Netherlands.

An anti-racism event on Newcastle University campus in November 2019.

Professor Nigel Copsey is a historian and expert in fascism and anti-fascism at Teesside University.

He said: “Football has a long history of attracting racist behaviour.”

“Racist groups, like the National Front, targeted certain clubs.

“Football crowds encourage a tribal identity of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

“This in turn encourages discriminatory and stereotypical thinking.

“The psychology/anonymity of the crowd gives racists the confidence to express their views and when such attitudes are not challenged and silence sends the message that such views are tolerated.”

Professor Copsey, who has written multiple books around history and fascism, said: “You can’t stop racism in sport without changing social attitudes.”

“Social attitudes won’t change until governments, media and elites stop using popular racism as a resource.

“Learned knowledge and behaviour is also transmitted through generations and so educational interventions are critical too.

“Over time, racist attitudes should lessen – education reduces prejudice – but the recourse to racist discourse in political debate/media representation, especially in times of crisis (Brexit etc.) legitimates resentment and fear.

“This makes educational interventions harder and diminishes empathy with minority groups as empathy is required to challenge racist attitudes.”

It is clear to see that racism is a massive problem, not only in Europe but here in the UK too.

It is less clear whether the current sanctions in football are strong enough, but one thing that is for certain is that progression in society is needed before we can stamp racism out of football.

Trainee Sports Journalist at Teesside University from Sheffield but currently living in Middlesbrough. Presenter for TUXtra Radio.

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