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Bulgarian Football Union pleased to avoid 'more severe sanctions' from UEFA

10:01 PM GMT+4 29/10/2019
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The governing body maintained their fans had been unfairly singled out for criticism while saying they were doing all they could to fight racism

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) praised their own "persistent efforts" to combat racism after avoiding more severe sanctions from UEFA in relation to their game against England on October 14.

England cruised to a 6-0 win in the Euro 2020 qualifier that was hosted in Bulgaria's capital Sofia, but the contest was marred by racist chants and Nazi salutes from sections of the crowd.

The match was paused twice by officials due to the incidents, which subsequently dominated the news agenda, as the BFU president and head coach Krasimir Balakov quit their respective posts.

UEFA had been urged to make an example of Bulgaria, but their decision to impose a two-match stadium ban – the second of which is suspended for two years – and a €75,000 fine has been met with antipathy from anti-discrimination campaigners.

However, in a statement, the BFU claimed their "persistent efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and tribal intolerance" had helped them steer clear of more serious punishment.

"The Bulgarian Football Union would like to emphasise that the incidents of October 14 at Vasil Levski St., which provoked a huge international response and created great public tension, failed to prevent the professional and effective response of all departments and units [of the BFU]," the statement read.

"Thanks to the diligent and competent work of the BFU administration and the Union's legal partners, as well as the persistent efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and tribal intolerance, the Bulgarian national team avoided more severe sanctions."

The BFU also reiterated their stance that supporters have been unfairly accused of intolerance.

"We sincerely believe that in the future the Bulgarian football fans will prove with their behaviour that they have unjustifiably become the subject of accusations of lack of tolerance and respect for their opponents," the statement continued.

"This will be of benefit to all - for football players as well as fans, as well as for Bulgaria's international sporting prestige."

The FA's anti-racism campaign, Kick It Out were not happy with the sanctions handed out.

They said "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."