Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Like all Members of this House and the country, I was appalled by the disgusting racist abuse encountered by the England football team and its support staff in Bulgaria last night. Whether you are a player, a manager, a supporter or a member of the staff no participant in sport should have to tolerate discrimination of any kind. May I also start by paying tribute to the leadership shown by Gareth Southgate and his coaching team as well as all the players for how they conducted themselves in appalling circumstances during and after the match? I have also spoken this morning to the chief executive of the Football Association to express my support for Gareth Southgate and his team and all the support staff of the FA on the way they conducted themselves.
We have made progress in this country to combat discrimination in our domestic game and make our stadiums more welcoming places to be. The Government are supporting a number of anti-racism initiatives, including the Premier League’s “No room for racism,” “Show racism the red card” and “Kick it out” campaigns, all of which have achieved a great deal in this area, and in February my predecessor in this role held a summit on discrimination with a range of bodies acting within football, but it is clear that we cannot be complacent, and we must remain a leading voice on this issue internationally.
International competitions such as this one should bring cultures and countries together. It was a step in the right direction to see the UEFA protocol engage last night—for the first time, I understand—but it is clear that much more needs to be done to stamp out racism in the game. I am also encouraged by the reaction of the Bulgarian Prime Minister, who has spoken out and called for changes at the Bulgarian Football Association.
UEFA must now get its response right, and leave no doubt that the consequences of failing to tackle this issue will be severe. I am writing today to the UEFA president, urging him to conclude UEFA’s investigations swiftly and to ensure that all football authorities and fans are clear that the consequences of failing to tackle this issue will be severe. The England team has my full support and I expect tough action from UEFA in response to this.