MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - European football’s governing body UEFA said it is investigating racist incidents at Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier between Montenegro and England in Podgorica, and both players and an independent monitoring group urged it to take strong action.
England defender Danny Rose was subjected to monkey chants and Raheem Sterling, scorer of England’s final goal in the 5-1 win, was also targeted, with racist abuse heard throughout the game.
UEFA said on Tuesday it was opening an investigation into charges of “racist behaviour” during the game. The case will be dealt with by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary panel on May 16.
The English Football Association welcomed the investigation into what it called “abhorrent racist chanting”.
“This is unacceptable at any level of the game and we welcome UEFA’s decision today to take disciplinary action,” the FA said in a statement.
Montenegro’s football association (FSCG) said they were ready to ban fans who could be shown to have been involved.
“If the proceedings prove that there was racist behaviour in the stadium, The Montenegrin Football Association (FSCG) will take all the necessary measures to identify the irresponsible individuals who might have caused such incidents and will ban them from all future matches organised by FSCG,” the body said.
The FSCG said this was the first incident they had suffered at an international game.
“There is no room for such behaviour in a multi-cultural and a multi-ethnic society like Montenegro,” it said.
Sterling, who cupped his ears to a section of Montenegro supporters after scoring, said the country’s fans should be banned from attending matches.
As well as a complaint from the English FA, UEFA will also examine the referee’s report and the official report from their own match delegate.
Independent monitoring group FARE had an observer at the game and said they will also submit a report.
UEFA said they will not comment until their disciplinary body has received those reports while FARE said their evidence would be sent to the Swiss-based body.
“We had an observer present who picked up evidence of racial abuse. Our monitoring team have been compiling the evidence we have before presenting it to UEFA,” FARE said in a statement.
“We hope that UEFA will act decisively, the sanctions that could be applied for an offence of this kind range from a partial stadium closure to full stadium closure.”
‘WORK STILL TO BE DONE’
England manager Gareth Southgate said he had no doubt that the abuse took place.
“I definitely heard abuse of Danny Rose when he got booked at the end of the game,” said Southgate. Sterling called for strict sanctions from UEFA.
“You’ve got to punish the whole fans, who can’t come to the games,” he said. “You’ve got to do something that will really make them think twice, because if their team can’t play with fans it’s going to be difficult for them.”
There have been racist incidents in English football this season as well, and the FA said the problem was not confined to a specific country.
“Despite progress, English football still has its own incidents of discrimination,” it said in a statement.
“Our experience is that by combining both sanctions and education, whilst working alongside campaigners such as Kick It Out, real progress can be made. “But there remains much work to be done.”