Police raid Bulgarian FA after chief quits over racist abuse of England stars

15 October 2019, 09:37 | Updated: 15 October 2019, 15:28

Police have raided the headquarters of the Bulgarian Football Union following the resignation of its president over racist abuse aimed at England players.

Special forces arrived at the base in Sofia just hours after Borislav Mihaylov quit his post, having been told to leave by the prime minister.

Bulgaria has come in for heavy criticism for the conduct of home fans during the Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday night, which was played in a partially closed stadium as punishment for "racist behaviour" by fans during a previous match against Kosovo in June.

Sports minister Krasen Kralev earlier told reporters: "The government has done a lot for the development of Bulgarian football in the last four years.

"But after the recent events, having in mind the whole state of football and last night's incidents, the prime minister has ordered me from today to suspend any relations with the BFU, including financial ones, until the resignation of Borislav Mihaylov."

Monday's game was temporarily halted twice after England players were subjected to monkey chants and Nazi salutes by home fans.

FA chairman Greg Clarke called it "one of the most appalling nights" he has ever seen in football, and called on UEFA to investigate the "abhorrent racist chanting" as a matter of urgency.

England manager Gareth Southgate called the situation "unacceptable" but said his players made a "major statement" on and off the pitch by refusing to let the racists win.

He said: "Sadly, my players, because of their experiences in our own country, are hardened to racism. They also know they've made a statement and they want the focus to be on the football."

Following UEFA's anti-racism protocols, an announcement was made in the 28th minute warning fans that any further incidents could result in the match being abandoned, while another pause before half-time only added to the nasty spectacle.

Under the rules, a third incident could have seen officials abandon the game, but England decided at half-time to play on.

Speaking after the 6-0 victory, England captain Harry Kane said: "Whether the UEFA protocol is strong enough, I am not sure.

"It is unacceptable to be racist once so I feel there can be stronger punishments and protocols but from our point of view as a team, we stuck together, showed unity and did what we had to and that is the most important thing."

And speaking earlier, Boris Johnson's official spokesman insisted "UEFA needs to face up to facts - this stain on football is not being adequately dealt with".

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has urged the "football family" to "wage war on the racists" following the abuse.

He said: "Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football

"We cannot afford to be content with this, we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

"Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area."

England star Raheem Sterling said he felt sorry for the Bulgarian players "to be represented by such idiots in their stadium".

Meanwhile, debutant Tyrone Mings revealed he heard racist abuse in the warm-up ahead of the game.

"I think everybody heard the chants, but we stood together and we made certain decisions," he said.

Bulgaria's captain Ivelin Popov was seen remonstrating with home supporters at half-time, prompting England's Marcus Rashford to praise him on Twitter

He wrote: "Also been told what the Bulgaria captain did at half-time. To stand alone and do the right thing takes courage and acts like that shouldn't go unnoticed. #NoTo Racism."

However Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov claimed that conversation was more likely to be about his side's poor display and that he himself had not heard any racism during the match.

"I was concentrated on the game," Balakov said.

"I didn't actually hear anything but I just talked to the English press downstairs and I told them that if this is proven to be true, then we have to be ashamed and we have to apologise for it.

"But, once again, first it has to be proven to be true."