England will have people placed in stadium to monitor for racist abuse in Sofia
England will have people placed around the Stadion Vasil Levski in Sofia during their Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria monitoring for racist abuse against their players.
Following the abuse some of their players received in Montenegro earlier this year, the game against Bulgaria next Monday is seen as another high-risk fixture after Ashley Young was on the receiving end of offensive chanting during England’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Sofia.
The Three Lions will have eyes and ears in different parts of the stadium ready to report any abuse and kick-start the three-step process in the event of racism.
First the referee stops the game and a stadium announcement is made, then the players will leave the pitch before an eventual abandonment.
Boss Gareth Southgate says England have faith in that process should anything unsavoury happen.
“We have a team manager in a certain part of the stadium, so we have different people in communication with UEFA anyway in different parts of the stadium,” he said.
“We’ve not had to change their roles but we just have an awareness of exactly what those procedures would be, and how that would need to happen.
“We’re very clear, which I have to say that it was a little less clear to me in Montenegro and of course the incident happened so late in the game.
“We are very clear across to all of our staff and discuss what needs to happen, what that procedure needs to look like.”
Southgate will address his players early in next week’s camp to remind them of the protocol, but hopes the attention is on the football.
“We think it’s important to pick that up with the players because we haven’t done that post Montenegro because we had two home games last time,” he said.
“So, we didn’t think it was relevant to them but we think it’s now a good moment to do that.
“And I think the conversations we’ve had with people about this, it would be key that they know that we’re clear on what needs to happen and they are supporters of that.
“I think it’s important that our players have been prepared if it were to happen.
“I think it’ll be in the early part of the week. I think as far away from the game as possible, and it’s dealt with calmly.
“I know our guys really want to focus on the football and they want the stories to be about the football.
“That is their desire, but this is clearly a serious topic, so we’ve got to make sure that we are giving it the respect it deserves.
“We all hope that we’re not discussing this at the end of the game.”