Bulgarian stewards ditched hi-vis vests to join fans in match against England
'Ultras' often act as stewards in Bulgarian domestic league, Sky Sports News has learned
By Rob Dorsett, Sky Sports News reporter
Last Updated: 16/10/19 9:28am
Bulgarian stewards enforcing the behaviour of home supporters in the first half of the European Qualifier against England took off their hi-vis vests, stopped working, and joined the crowd in the second half to watch the game.
It comes amid fresh allegations that the racist abuse of England's players on Monday night was co-ordinated and pre-planned.
It is not yet clear whether any of those stewards were subsequently involved in the racist chants directed at, primarily, Tyrone Mings, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling.
Sky Sports News has learned it is common practice in Bulgarian club matches for the stewarding of fans to be carried out by the club's 'ultras'.
In Eastern Europe, 'ultras' are the most devoted and most extreme supporters within a club's fan base, who - on occasion - have been linked with football violence.
The English FA has been charged by UEFA for an apparent lack of steward numbers to scrutinise and control the 3,500 England fans inside the stadium on Monday night. No such charges have been levied against the Bulgarian authorities.
Sky Sports News has contacted the Bulgarian Football Union for confirmation as to whether any of Levski Sofia's 'ultras' were involved in the stewarding of the game against England.
UEFA ready to "wage war on racists"
In a statement issued on Tuesday, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin urged governments to escalate the "war on the racists" to help football authorities eliminate it from stadiums, and blamed a "rise of nationalism" for encouraging abuse.
"Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football," Ceferin said. "We cannot afford to be content with this. We must always strive to strengthen our resolve.
"More broadly, the football family - everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans - needs to work with governments and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society."