England manager Gareth Southgate during the press conference in Wembley Stadium, London, Britain. - Reuters

ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate has called for tougher sanctions to win the war against racial abuse.

UEFA ordered Bulgaria to play two games behind closed doors, one suspended for two years, and fined them €75,000 after their Euro 2020 qualifier against England was interrupted twice by racist chanting last month.

Given that part of the stadium in Sofia was already closed after previous racist incidents, it seems unlikely the right-wing faction of Bulgaria’s support will be discouraged by UEFA’s intervention. Asked about the problem last night, Southgate said: “We’ve got to continue the sanctions. I think the sanctions are going to have to get higher and higher.

“But I couldn’t honestly tell you what the right answer for that would be. There were clearly people in the ground in Sofia who have no place in football but those people exist in our stadiums as well and we’re maybe better equipped at stopping them coming in.”

Southgate praised Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov, who appealed to his own supporters to stop the abuse. “Would I want to see him as an individual punished?” he said. “Certainly not and there were loads of kids in the stadium who were desperate for pictures with our players. So, we made friends there.”--AFP