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?
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.
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.
- Aston Villa supporters chant for Marvelous Nakamba containing references to ‘slavery’ (7/10/19).
- Hamza Choudhury and Wilfried Zaha racially abuse on social media (6/10/19 and 9/10/19).
- Ryan Shotton spoke out about hearing racism whilst playing at certain grounds (15/10/19).
- Haringey Borough vs Yeovil Town‘s FA Cup tie abandoned after racial abuse towards home players from away fans (19/10/19).
- Bristol City investigated after racist language used in away end during a 3-0 defeat to Luton Town (20/10/19).
- Hearts investigated after Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos is racially abused at Tynecastle (20/10/19).
- A Manchester United fan is ejected from Old Trafford after racially abusing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during derby cash with Liverpool (21/10/19).
- FIFA ask the Scottish FA to implement a zero tolerance approach on sectarian and racist chanting (31/10/19).
- Stevenage caretaker Mark Sampson is charged with alleged racist abuse by the FA (20/11/19).
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.
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’.
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.
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.