Gary Neville backs players to walk off pitch over racism after 'waste of time' Bulgaria punishment
"It is quite clear that FIFA and UEFA and you can even argue in this country within the FA that we have just not got it right at all in terms of the punishments on racism"
Last Updated: 30/10/19 4:10pm
Gary Neville believes football players should walk off the pitch when subjected to racism because football authorities are not punishing offences correctly.
The former Manchester United defender has described the punishment given to Bulgaria following racist abuse from their fans towards England players in a European Qualifier earlier this month as "bordering on a waste of time".
Bulgaria were hit with a two-match stadium ban, one of which is suspended for two years, and a £64,650 fine by UEFA on Tuesday.
Kick It Out, Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) promptly criticised the ruling as too lenient and former England player Neville now believes footballers should take matters into their own hands.
Neville, who won 85 caps during a 12-year international career for England, is hopeful fellow European nations would support such action and threaten to withdraw from major competitions if they were subsequently punished.
'I'd welcome a team walking off'
"I personally now have got to the situation whereby I would welcome, support a football team walking off the pitch," Neville told Sky Sports News.
"There was talk of England walking off the pitch before the game in Bulgaria. I think everybody would have supported the players and Gareth Southgate in walking off the pitch.
"But then I would expect if England were punished for that, other big nations and all nations essentially in Europe to support England and withdraw from the competition. That is going to need to happen.
"The nations are going to need to take it into their own hands because the governing body are not dealing with it in a satisfactory manner.
"I think it needs to happen because if you are a black England player that played in that game in Bulgaria that suffered the abuse and witnessed the abuse and [to] think a nation is fined £65,000 for it [then] I think you are going to have to take the matter into your own hands."
Bulgaria faced multiple charges after the scenes during England's 6-0 victory in Sofia on October 14 - described at the time as "abhorrent" by the FA - that almost saw an international team walk off the pitch and not return for the first time.
'They'd have the support if everyone in our country'
"People will say [to walk off] is dangerous territory, but the reality of it is some of the greatest changes that have been stimulated in the history of society have been individuals being brave," Neville added.
"We have got some really brave young individuals within that England squad who are not going to take it anymore.
"I think they would have the support of everybody in our country and essentially I would then hope the support of everybody in every other country that is playing country in that competition."
FARE said Bulgaria should have been thrown out of Euro 2020 qualifying but while Neville admits the punishment was further proof racism is not being tackled in the right manner, he does not support calls for countries to be dismissed from competitions unless it is persistent.
'Every act of racism should be punished heavily'
"It is quite clear that FIFA and UEFA and you can even argue in this country within the FA that we have just not got it right at all in terms of the punishments on racism," Neville said.
"If you started to fine countries millions of pounds then I think you would start to see what would be significant action.
"There needs to be significant pain brought towards anybody and everything that essentially… every act of racism should be punished heavily.
"At the moment £65,000 and a couple of games is not impacting the situation at all."
Sky Sports aired a documentary to mark Black History Month in which football's black pioneers, including Viv Anderson and Brendon Batson, spoke about how they braved abuse and Neville says more needs to be done in the UK, as well as around the world.
'You could remove teams from tournaments'
Neville said: "UEFA are not doing enough. Are any of us doing enough? It is happening in our country, it is happening on our soil and are we tough enough on it? The answer is no.
"Banning countries from a tournament - I do not think that is the correct way to go. But I do think large, heavy, really significant fines - millions and millions of pounds and the closing down of stadiums and making them play behind closed doors is the right way to go.
"If it persists from a point of view beyond that then you could start to think about potentially removing teams from a tournament."