North-East anti-racism boss praises England footballers after 'shocking' behaviour of Bulgaria fans
The boss of a North-East charity which uses football to tackle racism has spoken of his shock at the abusive behaviour of Bulgaria fans during Tuesday’s European Championship clash with England.
Ged Grebby, chief executive of Show Racism the Red Card, the United Kingdom’s largest anti-racism educational charity, has also praised Gareth Southgate’s side for the way they responded to sickening Nazi salutes and monkey chants aimed at black players during their 6-0 victory.
Mr Grebby said: “I was shocked when I saw it unfold because the Bulgarian Football Association had told us there was no problem there and any problems in Russia had been contained during the World Cup in 2018.
“But the Nazi salutes and monkey chants were there for all to see.
“On the positive side, I think England did exactly right. Tyrone Mings alerted the officials after hearing the chants and the stadium announcer has asked for them to stop.
“I would not have blamed the players if they had gone off. But it seems they discussed it at half-time and decided that walking off would have given the message that racism has won.”
The abuse suffered by Mings and England’s other black players followed just 24 hours after Show Racism the Red Card’s head coach, Sunderland legend Gary Bennett, recalled monkey chants he endured after he was sent off in a derby at Newcastle United in 1985.
While stressing that problems of racism in football have improved since then, Bennett also criticised today’s football authorities worldwide for imposing larger fines to clubs for fielding ineligible players and wearing incorrect advertising logos than for abusive behaviour by terrace yobs.
Last month, Hartlepool United’s home game with Dover Athletic saw a police investigation launched into alleged racist abuse from fans aimed at visiting players.
Cleveland Police said a 43-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order during the match.
Mr Grebby believes that football world governing body Fifa and the Bulgarian FA need to do more to educate fans about the evils of racism.
He added: “People are calling for sanctions but I think education is just as important.
“Bulgaria will probably end up playing in an empty stadium but then it is the ordinary fan who suffers.
“These were organised gangs who need to be targeted.
“As for throwing them out of the tournament, they are bottom of the group so what difference would that make?
“Fifa and the Bulgarian FA need to look at educating the fans. There is no education programme there at the moment.”
Show Racism the Red Card delivers workshops challenging prejudice at all levels to 50,000 young people a year.
The organisation’s fifth Wear Red Day, in which people are encouraged to wear red to support the charity, takes place on Friday, October 18, across England and Wales.
To donate £1 to Show Racism the Red Card, text RED to 70470. The text will cost £1 plus your standard rate message.
Further information is available at www.theredcard.org/wear-red-day