Bulgaria's manager Krasimir Balakov denies hearing any racist chanting during their Euro 2020 qualifying match against England. The match in Sofia was marred by abuse directed at England’s black players during the 6-0 win for Gareth Southgate’s men, and the FA called on UEFA to take swift action as soon as the game ended. At half-time Bulgaria's captain Ivelin Popov seemed to make an appeal to fans to put an end to their chanting, instead of heading into the changing room, a move that has been called 'courageous' but the English side. However, Balkov suggests that is not what happened, saying his captain was probably apologising to the crowds for their poor performance. England skipper Harry Kane spoke to Croatian referee Ivan Bebek and the first step of the UEFA anti-racism protocol – a stadium announcement to call on the abuse to stop – was enacted in the 28th minute. Further abuse was reported to the match officials towards the end of the first half, with the referee halting play. However, it is understood this suspension of play did not constitute the second part of the UEFA protocol, which would involve the players being taken temporarily off the pitch. The final stage of the protocol would have been the abandonment of the match. Anti-discrimination group Fare will now help UEFA build a “legally safe” case to prosecute Bulgaria after the abusive chanting. The Fare network had observers inside the Levski Stadium in Sofia who fed their information to UEFA delegates, and this along with television footage will form part of the evidence European football’s governing body uses when making decisions on any sanctions. Football Association chairman Greg Clarke last night called for football to take a “zero tolerance” approach to racism after the Euro 2020 qualifier was marred by abusive chants directed towards England’s black players and staff throughout the match.
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