Montenegro face racist behaviour charge in Euro 2020 qualifier against England

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Uefa has charged Montenegro with racist behaviour following the abuse suffered by England players in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Podgorica on Monday.

England won 5-1 but the match was overshadowed by racist chanting from some home fans directed at several England players, including Danny Rose.

Uefa said “disciplinary proceedings” had been opened against Montenegro with one charge for “racist behaviour”.

The case will be dealt with by European football’s governing body on 16 May.

Montenegro coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic said he did not “hear or notice any” racist abuse.

But England manager Gareth Southgate, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live said he “definitely heard the racist abuse of Rose”.

“There’s no doubt in my mind it happened,” he added. “I know what I heard. It’s unacceptable.

“We have to make sure our players feel supported, they know the dressing room is there and we as a group of staff are there for them.

“We have to report it through the correct channels. It is clear that so many people have heard it and we have to continue to make strides in our country and trust the authorities to take the right action.”

Anti-discrimination group Fare said they had identified the match as “high risk” for racism before the game and executive director Piara Powar said: “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.”

Montenegro also face other charges relating to crowd disturbances, the throwing of objects, setting off of fireworks and the blocking of stairways following the game at the Podgorica City Stadium.

The minimum punishment from Uefa for an incident of racism is a partial stadium closure, while a second offence results in one match being played behind closed doors and a fine of 50,000 euros (£42,500).

Uefa rules add: “Any subsequent offence is punished with more than one match behind closed doors, a stadium closure, the forfeiting of a match, the deduction of points and/or disqualification from the competition.”

Is expulsion more worthy?

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said: “It is a disaster. I cannot say anymore because it is now a matter for our disciplinary committee, but I cannot believe these people still exist.”

Kick it Out, an anti-discrimination charity, said: “As we’ve argued countless times, it’s time for Uefa to take strong, decisive action – fines won’t do.

“Extended stadium bans or tournament expulsion are what’s needed.”

Troy Townsend, who is a campaigner for Kick It Out, told BBC Sport: ”Is closing a stadium for a game that’s not going to be against England worthy? Or is expulsion more worthy?

“If the governing bodies are really going to show that they’re challenging and taking this seriously then I’m all for the ‘enough is enough – you can’t play in this tournament until you sort yourself out’ approach.”

The English Football Association called the racist abuse “abhorrent” and “unacceptable” as it welcomed Uefa’s decision to take disciplinary action.

“The issues we saw are not isolated to any specific country, and despite progress English football still has its own incidents of discrimination,” said an FA statement.

“Our experience is that by combining both sanctions and education, while working alongside campaigners such as Kick It Out, real progress can be made. But there remains much work to be done.”

The Montenegro Football Association said in a statement that it will not comment on the Uefa charges while disciplinary proceedings take place but added that there was no place for discriminatory behaviour.

What happened?

After only six minutes, BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Ian Dennis said he heard racist chants when Tottenham left-back Rose was in possession. BBC football correspondent John Murray also said he heard the chanting throughout the game and spoke to pitch-side photographers who described the abuse the England players received as “disgusting”.

Raheem Sterling scored England’s fifth goal in the 81st minute and celebrated by putting his hands to his ears, a gesture he later said was a response to the racist abuse, which was also aimed at Callum Hudson-Odoi.

In injury time Rose was booked following a strong challenge on Aleksandar Boljevic, with more racist chants aimed at the 28-year-old.

It is not the first time Rose has faced this situation on international duty.

He was racially abused in Serbia in an under-21 game in 2012.Serbia’s FA was fined £65,000, with their under-21s having to play a game behind closed doors.

Sterling calls for a ‘real punishment’

Sterling called on football’s authorities to take “a proper stance” and crack down on the racist abuse.

“A couple of idiots ruined a great night and it is a real sad thing to hear,” Sterling told BBC Radio 5 Live. “It’s a real sad situation we are talking about after a great win.

“I don’t think it was just one or two people that heard it, it was the whole bench. There should be a real punishment for this, not just the two or three people who were doing it – it needs to be a collective thing.

“This place holds 15,000. The punishment should be, whatever nation it is, if your fans are chanting racist abuse then it should be the whole stadium so no-one can come and watch.

“When the ban is lifted, the fans will think twice. They all love football, they all want to come and watch their nation so it will make them think twice before doing something silly like that.”

Describing his reaction to his goal, Sterling added: “It was one of those where it was to let them know, you are going to need to tell me more than that we are black and what we resemble to affect us.

“That was the message and give them something to talk about.

“We can only bring awareness and light to the situation. It’s time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it.

“In England we have a diverse country and lots of different faces. I can only do so much; the FA can only do so much. The people in charge need to make a proper stance.”

Should England players have gone off the pitch?

England had gone behind in Montenegro to a Marko Vesovic effort before goals from Michael Keane, Ross Barkley, who scored twice, Harry Kane and Sterling completed a comfortable win.

However, the talk after the game was dominated by the racist chanting aimed at England’s players and Southgate was asked about whether he should have taken England’s players off the pitch.

“I’m not 100% certain that that would be what the players would want,” he said.

“There would be a mix of views, in terms of when we’ve discussed the topic in the past, how the players would like it to be dealt with. And they just want to play football.

“Of course, we have the chance to have an impact, but I don’t have the answer, frankly.”

He added: “Maybe that’s something I’d have to consider in the future. I have to say, it wasn’t something that came to mind at the time.

“I would want to have a long discussion with my players before to make sure that was a course of action they felt was a) something they wanted to do, and b) thought was something that was going to make a difference.”

Lewis Hamilton
Britain’s Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton sent a message of support to England’s players following the racist abuse they suffered in Montenegro

A Uefa delegate was at the game and Southgate believes the representative from European football’s governing body heard the racist abuse.

“I’m reflecting on should I have done more?” said Southgate. “In the end, I think I tried to protect my players as much as I possibly can.

“I’m not the authority on the subject. I’m a middle-aged white guy speaking about racism.

“I’m just finding it a really difficult subject to broach because I want my players to enjoy playing football and not be scarred by the experiences.

“If people feel I should have done more, then I can only apologise for that.”

I heard fans making monkey noises – Hudson-Odoi

Chelsea winger Hudson-Odoi, 18, who was making his first international start, told BeIn Sports: “I don’t think discrimination should be anywhere – we are equal.

“When you are hearing stuff like that from the fans, it is not right and it is unacceptable. Hopefully Uefa deal with it properly. When me and Rosey went over there, they were saying, ‘ooh aa aa’ monkey stuff and we just have to keep our heads and keep a strong mentality.

“Hopefully Rosey is OK too. We will discuss it and have a chat. He has a strong mentality and is a strong guy so hopefully everything will be good.

“It is not right at all – I was enjoying the game too. We just have to take the win and go back home.”

Callum Hudson-Odoi and Danny Rose
Hudson-Odoi (left) made his first start for England against Montenegro, while Danny Rose was making his 26th international appearance in the game

England’s Declan Rice, who was also making his first England start, was sitting next to Rose in the dressing room after the game and said the incidents affected everyone in the camp.

“It is clearly unacceptable and it is up to the FA and Uefa to deal with it,” said Rice. “It is not right, we came here to play a football match, we have been respectful and they need to show respect to us.

“Danny was disappointed. We talk all the time about kicking it out of the game but when is it actually going to stop? It is happening all the time and there needs to be more punished for it.

“We need to be doing more. I don’t know what else we can do, there are so many campaigns saying ‘kick it out’ but then you come to places like this and it happens again, you are back to the start.”

Analysis

BBC Sport’s Simon Stone

At the very least, Montenegro can expect to be hit with a fine and a partial stadium closure for their next game, against Kosovo, on 7 June.

Uefa has a step-by-step list of punishments for racism and a partial closure is the first one, followed by full closure and then stadiums being shut for more than one match.

Their problem, evidently, is trying to solve a problem that is endemic within society.

Evidently there are issues in the Balkan region but then, as has been pointed out, there have been instances of racism in English stadiums this season also.

Although they are often attacked for being too soft on racism issues, Uefa feel, within the limited scope of their powers, they have had some success.

In particular, they cite the experience of CSKA Moscow, who had the third game of a three-match stadium closure suspended for five years in 2014 and, so far, there have been no further racist incidents the Russian club have been viewed as being responsible for.