Reporter At The England Bulgaria Match Reveals To LBC What Happened

15 October 2019, 15:01 | Updated: 15 October 2019, 15:05

A reporter at the England Bulgaria match told Shelagh that during the press conference the Bulgarian coaches denied racism had happened and "local journalists were tutting" when questions were continually asked about the monkey chants.

James Olley, Evening Standard's Chief Football Correspondent, told Shelagh: "This started in the warm-up last night, the game hadn't even kicked off and Tyrone Mings who was making his debut last night was saying he could hear monkey chanting before kick-off.

"And all the way through the first half - Marcus Rashford and Raheem Stirling, two of England's black players, play out wide and so when they were getting the ball out wide, that part of the ground were trying to put him off with monkey chants."

Olley continued that Levski Sofia, a major home club in Bulgaria's capital, has been identified as having a "problem with neo-Nazi influences."

"If you look at the people who were ejected at half-time last night, they turned up dressed all in black, faces covered to escape identification, they don't care about the football. They are there to perpetuate and find a forum for their fascist views."

Tyrone Mings made his England debut and was met with monkey chants in the warm-up
Tyrone Mings made his England debut and was met with monkey chants in the warm-up. Picture: PA

Olley said they probably wouldn't have gotten into a football match in the UK, considering high profile stadiums check identification, tickets and bags.

Shelagh asked how much the UK football atmosphere has progressed in order to assure all people are included and have a good time.

"If you compare what happened last night here and the conversation is here, in the press conference the coaches were denying it happened. We were surrounded by local Bulgarian journalists who were tutting and voicing their displeasure at us continually asking questions about racism.

"They wanted to either bury their heads in the sand or play the whole thing down. That doesn't happen in England - there are stakeholders whether it's media, fans, players, the FA, Premier League.

Every body whenever there is an incident of racism and as you said, Raheem Stirling has been targeted more than most, there is a network of support for him and there has been for other players when that's happened.

Raheem Stirling has been "targeted more than most"
Raheem Stirling has been "targeted more than most". Picture: PA

"What's been the issue is there's still perhaps too many vested interest in trying to work out exactly what the way forward is because you've got to punish someone. You're kind of asking football to police itself."

He reflected how there needs to be some sort of stronger independent regulation than what we currently have; he said UEFA, of European football, "have to have stronger sanctions" as in 2011, Bulgaria were fined £34,000 which is "so insignificant, it's ridiculous."

Olley said we are inching in the right direction with partial stadium closes but "until there is an active live threat of expulsion from tournaments" he said he thinks there "won't be enough of a groundswell in these countries to really push the idea that we need to tackle this problem because it's going to have a wider societal impact."