Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate issues strong message after racism incidents in Bulgaria

Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate has praised the way England handled Monday night’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria which had to be stopped twice for racist behaviour.

Thursday, 17th October 2019, 4:41 pm
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate.
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate.

There were concerns about potential incidents of racism ahead of the game in Sofia, while it had been reported England would consider walking off the pitch if it occurred.

The Three Lions went on to finish the match, winning 6-0, yet the game could have been abandoned if stage three of UEFA's three-stage protocol had been reached.

Woodgate, though, believes England and former Boro boss Gareth Southgate deserve huge credit.

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“Firstly, I think it is absolutely disgusting what they faced in Bulgaria,” said Woodgate when asked about the incidents.

“England had a protocol to go through and stood up to them really. It could have gone two ways, you could have taken the players off or let the football do the talking.

“Bulgaria should be banned. Any fan who has done it should be jailed for racial abuse. The team should be banned by UEFA. It is appalling. Full credit to the set of England players because I thought they handed it really well.”

Woodgate also said he would take his team off the pitch if a player was racially abused and called for a no tolerance policy.

“The England team handled it really well. If one of our fans racially abuses someone I’d expect them to be put in prison,” added the Boro boss.

The Premier League, EFL and FA do have a similar protocol in place to try and prevent racism, yet uncertainty remains regarding the ramifications.

“I’d like to take my players off the pitch and stand up to it,” said Woodgate when asked how he’d try to tackle the issue. “We are showing this can’t happen that way but if we do that, what happens then?”

“We do need to stand up to them and that is a way to stand up to them.”

Two years ago, Middlesbrough launched their zero tolerance to racism campaign, RiverSideBySide, which promotes anti-racism and equality.

The club also supported the launch of new project Footy-FACTAS, designed to tackle issues of racism and extremism, at the Riverside earlier this year.