England kicked-off their Euro 2020 qualification campaign with back-to-back wins – scoring 10 goals and picking up maximum points. With impressive starts for English youngsters Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Declan Rice there was plenty of positives – however last night’s win in Montenegro was marred by racial abuse directed at the Three Lions.
PFA head of Equalities, Simone Pound said she was left with a ‘horrible sense of déjà vu’ following last night’s match: “We are dismayed by the racial abuse that England's black players endured at yesterday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro.
“Whilst the 1-5 result speaks volumes and we applaud the England squad for their great start to the campaign, the racist chanting leaves a slur on the game and a horrible sense of déjà vu for many black players who have experienced the same thing whilst representing England over the course of many years.”
Earlier this season Raheem Sterling called for the British press to consider the coverage of all footballers carefully, and to end their imbalanced coverage aimed at young, black players. This was following an ugly incident of alleged racial abuse directed towards him from spectators at Stamford Bridge.
Last night he was clear, that it is now on UEFA to take hard-line approach to tackle the issue: "It's now time for the people that are in charge to put a real stamp on it because you can fine someone but what's that going to do?
"You've got to make it harder - you've got to punish all the fans so they can't come to the games, you've got to do something that's really going to make them think twice. Because if their team can't play with fans it's going to be difficult for them and make them think twice about it.
“I can only, we can only, the FA can only do so much. We've got to leave this to the people in charge to make a proper stance on it. Just banning one or two people is not going to change anything, even to our fans I'd say the exact same thing."
PFA Deputy Chief Executive and FIFPro European President, Bobby Barnes spoke with UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin this morning, Barnes explained: “Aleksander Čeferin has expressed his equal frustration with myself that racism had raised its ugly head again.
“Aleksander reiterated his commitment to dealing with this stain on our game and to taking strong action once the evidence has been properly examined.”
“I know from working with him directly on various incidents in the recent past that he has exerted his influence to ensure action has been taken over racist incidents such as this, I firmly believe he intends to tackle this issue.”
UEFA regulations state that if supporters engage in racist behaviour then "the member association or club responsible is punished with a minimum of a partial stadium closure".
England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed he heard England’s left-back Danny Rose abused after a booking in the 93rd minute, while Callum Hudson-Odoi also insisted he heard monkey chants from the home fans.
Pound concluded: “We must acknowledge that this is a growing concern across Europe and this season domestically as well. Football has a responsibility to demonstrate that racism and discrimination will not be tolerated in or outside the stadium.”
“Whilst the disgraceful incidents that occurred at the Montenegro game have happened on an international stage with the eyes of the world watching and condemning, we cannot be complacent to the other incidents taking place in stadiums and park pitches in our own country. We need to make a stand to demonstrate to everyone that this is completely unacceptable behaviour - wherever it occurs.”