Bulgaria is now destined to play two of their upcoming Euro 2020 matches in empty stadiums. The first affected match will take place on Nov. 17 against the Czech Republic. Fans' behaviour during Bulgaria's game against England made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The home supporters were racist during the match and UEFA has been under pressure to take action.
UEFA has also penalised the Bulgarian federation with a hefty fine of £65,000 (75,000 euros). Bulgaria was already halfway through a partial two-game stadium ban, which was initiated after their supporters were found guilty of indulging in racist behaviour during matches against the Czech Republic and Kosovo in June.
Out of the 46,340 seats available at the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, 5,000 were blocked for the England game. 3,000 seats were due to be blocked for Bulgaria's final Euro 2020 qualifying game against the Czech Republic. With the new punishment coming into action, that particular game will now be played in front of empty stands.
In the meantime, anti-racism charity "Kick it Out," anti-discrimination body "Fare" and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) have criticised UEFA's punishment.
As BBC reports, a Kick It Out spokesperson said, "They (UEFA) missed an opportunity to send an uncompromising message on racism and discrimination. The current sanctions, however 'tough' Uefa think they may be, are clearly not working and leave victims with little faith in their ability to prevent abusive behaviour."
While England was playing against Bulgaria in Sofia, the home supporters kept on making inappropriate actions. These included Nazi salutes as well as continuous monkey chants. The situation quickly went out of control and the match was stopped twice.
The intensity of racial discrimination went so high that the game was on the verge of getting abandoned. However, the visitors chose to continue playing despite the opposing fans' racism.
Bulgaria is currently positioned at the bottom of Group A with 3 points from 7 games. Their current situation wouldn't help them directly qualify for the 2020 European Championship. However, they are in line for a playoff spot based on their results in last year's League of Nations.
England, on the other hand, is virtually qualified for next summer's tournament after securing 15 points from 6 games.