October 9 – England players are threatening to walk off the pitch all together if any of them receive racist abuse from the stands when they take on Bulgaria in Sofia in a World Cup qualifier next Monday.
The game takes place in a partially closed stadium after Bulgarian supporters were found guilty of racist behaviour during matches against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.
UEFA has ordered the Bulgarian FA to block off 5,000 seats out of 46,340 at the Vasil Levski National Stadium.
Following a discussion between manager Gareth Southgate and the team, England players agreed to adhere to UEFA’s “three-step” protocol to tackle racism. The third step is officials abandoning a match if announcements inside a stadium do not stop the problem.
However, England’s players say they will simply walk off the pitch collectively if a teammate is racially abused and does not want to stay on.
“We’ve had meetings about it [racist abuse from the crowd] and we’ve touched base on how to deal with the situation,” said Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, who has been called up for his first competitive senior matches. “Harry Kane even said that if it happens and we’re not happy with it, we all come off the pitch together. If it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.”
Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold added: “It’s a team decision, one that we all need to make. It doesn’t matter if one player is abused or the team – we are one group. Nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable on the pitch.”
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