The BFU president addresses UEFA following the latest comments by England players
The president of the Bulgarian Football Union Borislav Mihaylov sent an official letter to UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis with copies to UEFA National Associations Director Zoran Laković and UEFA Director of Competitions Giorgio Marchetti expressing his extreme disappointment with the latest comments made by England national team players prior to the game in Sofia on October 14th.
Here is the full statement:
"Dear Mr. Theodoridis,
It is with a great feeling of regret that I find myself obligated to address you regarding a matter that I assumed to have been peacefully resolved at the end of last month.
I first raised awareness about the issue at hand following England manager Gareth Southgate’s comments on potential racial abuse in England’s visit to Sofia on October 14th; comments that the Bulgarian Football Union, the Bulgarian general public and I personally find offensive due to unjust branding of the local spectators as people inclined to discriminatory behavior. Following the communication with English FA president Mr. Greg Clarke I was informed that Mr. Southgate’s concerns were mainly due to the fact that Bulgaria received a UEFA sanction for racist chants in 2011 – and even though I view these comments as disregarding of all the work that the BFU has done over these eight years, I truly believed that our federation’s immediate reaction would result in a more constructive handling of public and media matters in the eve of the game in Sofia.
Please find attached references to articles in worldwide media platforms in which various players from the England national team openly discuss the possibilities of breaking the UEFA three-step procedure and all UEFA protocols and walking off the pitch in the case of discriminatory behaviour in the team’s upcoming European qualifiers against the Czech Republic and particularly against Bulgaria – an idea which, if executed, should be punishable according to the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations.
We at the Bulgarian Football Union feel that this fixation on potential incidents during the game in Sofia does not to justice to the Bulgarian supporters, the general public and to the extreme efforts and measures that the Bulgarian Football Union has taken in order to ensure a fair and safe environment for what we believe to be a true footballing spectacle. Furthermore, we believe that such behavior is completely out of line with the UEFA #FootballPeople weeks, a noble cause that the Bulgarian national team and the BFU have taken an active part in.
Although we are aware of the recent problems with racist behavior in all tiers of English club football and with England’s ongoing battle with hooliganism and although we sincerely applaud the FA’s initiative for the English fans to report trouble within the visiting crowd we are extremely shocked at all efforts to involve and even mark out the Bulgarian spectators as potential troublemakers.
The Bulgarian Football Union’s energy in battling racism in the last decade has proven to be effective as there has not been a single recent incident during a national team game involving hatred or discrimination due to skin color, race, religion or political views. I find myself obliged to voice my concerns over the fact that the Bulgarian fans are being made subject of public reprimand and scrutiny and demand for this demeanor to be ceased as not to cause any unnecessary tension prior to the game on October 14th.
The Bulgarian public has looked forward to the upcoming game for a long time and with a great deal of respect towards the visiting team which is known to be one of the most popular foreign sides among our footballing fans. The Bulgarian public has in no way committed any recent infringements that deserve it to be stereotyped as “racist” or “hostile” – and I am sure you will agree that these accusations are not only unjust but are continuous attempts to disrupt the atmosphere before a very much anticipated game of football.
I, as president of the Bulgarian Football Union, cannot allow for such derogatory claims to continue being spread in the mass media and I strongly suggest that the UEFA administration take measures against the build-up of unnecessary tension in the weeks devoted to equality and to the celebration of football.
President of the BFU"