Bulgaria Fine, Not Okay?


Just a fortnight ago those associated with the England Football Team – players, coaches, fans and journalists – witnessed an extraordinary level of an orchestrated display of racism. It was very clearly above and beyond the “norm” of a racist group of fans, but more vividly a right wing sect that was using the presence of international media to make a point to their agenda.

What our country and football as a whole witnessed in Bulgaria is not acceptable, and of course, we must follow the right processes in attempting to reform a footballing venue to embrace and enjoy all cultures that portray the beautiful game.

But how does one quantify the appropriate punishment to fit the crime?

Bulgaria have been handed a two match stadium ban (one suspended) and a fine in the region of £65,000.

The reaction has been immediate and ferocious. HOW IS THAT ACCEPTABLE?

A few of my social groups have laughed “Yeah, that will stop racism”.

To understand this challenge, one must understand the objective of UEFA in completing this punishment and the disproportionate levels of both crime, morals and finances across the whole footballing estate. It is not an enviable task.

English football fans will immediately see a figure like £65,000 and know it’s around a tenth of the extortionate weekly wage Aaron Ramsey is earning at Juventus. It’s pitiful. It’s not a drop in the ocean, it doesn’t even break the surface. Of course it’s not enough.

On the flip side, Andorra is still a country fielding a team of semi-professionals who have to earn their living in full time jobs. UEFA must find a balance.

It’s not just the financial implications though, as many are arguing a straight expulsion from Euro 2020 should have occurred. If we consider the threat to competition as a result, we will open the doors to a very dangerous precedent.

Bulgaria have been in trouble on several occasions in the recent past, but without clarity as to what leads up to an expulsion from competition, what is to say that Liverpool did not deserve to be expelled from the Champions League following their inappropriate banner of Divock Origi that has been deemed racist? What about the trouble in Paris when Chelsea fans were pushing black people off trains? What about just the mere possibility that an organised collective could group purchase tickets and turn up to any football ground making Nazi salutes and unveiling offensive banners?

There was a celebration for UEFA implementing and following process during that game, and the need to improve disciplinary processes is without doubt. Bulgaria clearly have an issue with controlling deemed racism within their football venues, and a series of offences should be increasing in punishment and not re-setting and allowing the same mistakes to continue.

But without that clarity, consider what extremes we would allow all of those just interested in violence and chaos to have control over the every day fan.

And this leads back to, what deems this racism so unacceptable against the racism we see in our own leagues? This outrage has merely been fuelled because it was England on TV and the truth is none of us have cared remotely about the sanctions held against Bulgaria for their previous offences, nor Italy for their on-going offences, nor England – the MIGHTY MIGHTY ENGLAND – because we’re too ashamed to admit our awful truth.

I do not refute that the punishment handed to Bulgaria is indeed “not enough”, but curing Bulgaria of racism is not UEFA’s responsibility, and we all have our own responsibility to measure these things rationally.

The truth is, it will never be enough… because it’s not what solves the problem.

By Stephen Lee

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