England win 4-0 in Budapest but monkey chants aimed at players during game; England players booed by fans when taking a knee prior to kick-off; FIFA expected to launch an investigation; Warning: this article contains footage of a racist gesture
Friday 3 September 2021 17:23, UK
England players were racially abused during their 4-0 win over Hungary in Budapest having been booed when they took a knee prior to the World Cup Qualifier.
The Football Association has called on FIFA to investigate the chants which were aimed at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham, and world football's governing body is awaiting a report from officials who were present at the Puskas Arena before launching an investigation and taking "adequate actions".
Reporting from inside the stadium in Budapest, Sky Sports News' Rob Dorsett confirmed he had heard "sporadic monkey chants from various areas of the crowd, directed primarily towards Raheem Sterling when he has touched the ball - and including when he set up Harry Kane for the second goal.
"I have seen four separate individuals specifically involved in the racist chanting. The most recent of those was directed at Jude Bellingham, as he warmed up right in front of us, and close to the Hungarian ultras."
FIFA have said in a statement: "First and foremost, FIFA strongly rejects any form of racism and violence and has a very clear zero tolerance stance for such behaviour in football.
"FIFA will take adequate actions as soon as it receives match reports concerning yesterday's Hungary-England game.
"With regards to the previous UEFA sanction against Hungary, please note that as specified by UEFA at the time, this sanction is to be served in UEFA competitions."
UEFA added: "UEFA strongly condemns any discriminatory/racist behaviour and we will continue to lead the fight against racism and discrimination in the game.
"The alleged incidents happened in a FIFA competition and do therefore not fall under the jurisdiction of our disciplinary bodies."
Having been told about the abuse after the game, England captain Harry Kane described the incidents as "totally unacceptable".
Speaking to Sky Sports News in Budapest, England manager Gareth Southgate said: "We weren't conscious of it on the side. I don't know if the players on the pitch were. But everyone knows what we've spoken about for two or three years.
"They know what we stand for as a team and we have to hope we can continue to eradicate racism not only in football but from life in general."
The FA released a statement after the game which read: "It is extremely disappointing to hear reports of discriminatory actions towards some of our England players.
"We will be asking FIFA to investigate the matter. We continue to support the players and staff in our collective determination to highlight and tackle discrimination in all its forms."
The England players had been loudly heckled at kick-off when they took a knee.
The squad had discussed the issue in the build-up to the game, and were made aware of the fact that the Republic of Ireland players were loudly booed in June when they took a knee before their friendly with Hungary in the nearby Szusza Ferenc Stadion.
Loud boos and jeers were clearly audible as England's players made the gesture, which draws attention to the fight against racial inequality in the game and society.
The England players were also pelted with cups thrown from the crowd after Sterling had opened the scoring in Budapest.
A flare was then thrown onto the pitch following Harry Maguire's goal to put the Three Lions 3-0 ahead.
England's players were booed earlier this summer by some of their own supporters when they took a knee for their Euro 2020 warm-up games and again by small sections of the crowd in their Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
Players taking a knee have also been booed at some club matches since the domestic season started.
Hungary's Italian coach, Marco Rossi, had said ahead of the fixture that he would be "on the side" of England's players if they were to be subjected to racist abuse, while the Hungarian FA president Sandor Csanyi wrote in the match programme to call on supporters to not make "racist, discriminatory or homophobic chants".
On Friday, the Hungarian FA released a statement indicating that a minority of "disruptive ticket holders" need to be "identified and severely punished", and mentioned that there will be "two-year" punishments for those fans who threw bottles, cups, and flares.
However, there was no inclusion of handing out any punishments for those fans who are found to have abused England's players.
The statement read: "The vast majority of the 60,000 fans present in the Puskás Aréna supported the teams in a sporting manner, cheering on the Hungarian national team even when the team was already losing. It is in their defence that the minority of disruptive ticket-holders need to be identified and severely punished.
"Fans entering the field of play, throwing flares and plastic cups are in the process of being identified. The MLSZ (Hungarian FA) has already filed or will file police reports against them and will pass on any financial penalties to the perpetrators through civil litigation.
"Furthermore, at the end of proceedings, those found guilty can expect a two-year ban from all sporting events.
"The Hungarian Federation and the players, head coach all made an extremely strong communication campaign before the game to call supporters to avoid all kind of racist, xenophobic behaviors during all matches of the national team."
With the game played under FIFA jurisdiction, a full-capacity crowd of 60,000 were present at the stadium, despite Hungary having been ordered to play their next three UEFA competition matches behind closed doors - with one of those games suspended for two years - following racist abuse from supporters and homophobic banners in the stands during their Euro 2020 group stage matches in Budapest.
A homophobic banner was seen in the stands during Hungary's defeat to Portugal in their opening game at the tournament, while monkey chants were also heard during their draw with France.
England boss Southgate addressed the racist abuse directed at 18-year-old Bellingham and praised the Borussia Dortmund midfielder for his "mature" reaction.
"[Bellingham] shouldn't have to suffer that," Southgate added.
"It's fantastic from him that he's shown that maturity and I know our security guys have spoken to him since the game to get his account of that. We don't want to see it. Everyone knows it's not acceptable. He's shown great maturity in how he's dealt with it.
"There's no more this group can do in the fight against racism. We are trying to uphold our part of it and other people have to take the right action to try and make progress.
"It's for other people - and me in the main - to protect the players but the authorities as well. They shouldn't have to be subjected to any forms of racism. Our head of security has spoken with the players and taken their statements and we will deal with it in the right way, through the right channels.
"But it's not fair to criticise all the Hungarian fans, it's a very similar situation to the one we find at home I think.
"The individuals that are responsible need to be dealt with, I think there's evidence of people being filmed and we have to hope it's dealt with in the right way.
"The world is changing and although some people are stuck in their prejudices, they are going to be the dinosaurs in the end because the world is modernising."
After the game, skipper Harry Kane said he hopes football's governing bodies deliver strong punishments to fans who directed racism towards England's players.
The forward told Sky Sports News: "I wasn't aware [of the abuse], I was only told about it after the game.
"It's totally unacceptable we've been in positions like this before. I know the FA will do all they can to resolve the situation and talk to UEFA.
"But look, I couldn't be prouder of the boys, of what we've done and how we performed in a tough place, in a hostile environment, and it just shows the character of this team."
On the pending punishments towards Hungary after similar incidents at Euro 2020, Kane added: "That's out of our hands as players but we hope UEFA are strong with their sanctions, that's all we can ask.
"It's unacceptable on any level and just disappointing. We're here to play football and enjoy ourselves and to put on a show for all the fans, home and away. So it's a shame that some fans decided to act like that. I hope UEFA come down strongly [on Hungary]."
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire told Sky Sports News that some of England's players were unaware of the abuse when it was discussed following the 4-0 win, but hopes that sanctions are placed on the Hungary supporters involved.
He said: "I spoke to a few of the boys in the changing room and nobody heard it. Obviously, we might've been fully focused and in the zone so I really can't comment on that.
"But if that is true, then that's extremely disappointing and I hope they can be punished."
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips tweeted after the game in Budapest: "Great to be back in an @England shirt tonight, proud of the boys and our performance. The best response to some of the crowd. Hate will never win."
John Stones spoke to the media post-match and told reporters: "It is so sad to think that this happens at our games and I hope whoever needs to take care of it does and I'm sure they will.
"We stand together as a team and we will continue fighting for what we believe in as a team and what we believe is right."
Stones' Manchester City clubmate Jack Grealish wrote on social media: "Brilliant win in an unacceptable atmosphere. Well done though boys."
Sky Sports News' Rob Dorsett in Budapest...
FIFA had two specialist anti-discrimination experts at the Puskas Arena on Thursday night, Sky Sports News has learned, whose audio and video evidence will be crucial in deciding what punishment will be given to the Hungarian FA , following the racist abuse directed at England's players.
The previous racist and homophobic incidents inside the same stadium during the European Championships in the summer meant that last night's World Cup Qualifier was designated as a "red match" or high-risk game by FIFA's disciplinary officials.
All member associations, including the English FA, were sent new guidelines in the summer of 2019 on how FIFA would police such games.
This is the relevant section of those guidelines: "An observer is appointed for each red match, except for those red matches where additional risk factors are in play and require the appointment of two observers.
"Through its service provider, Fare network, FIFA relies on a pool of trained observers, who are anti-discrimination experts assigned to specific regions.
"At the match itself, each observer will observe and record evidence of any discriminatory incidents in the stadium or its immediate vicinity."
It remains to be seen whether the FIFA observers at Thursday night's game were able to record the incidents of racist abuse in the same way Sky Sports News was.
Attention will turn now to the president of the Hungarian FA, Sandor Csanyi, who has not yet spoken on the matter. He is also FIFA vice-president and a member of the UEFA Exco Committee.
Sky Sports News has also learned that UEFA could have requested the World Cup Qualifier between Hungary and England to have been played behind closed doors, but did not do so.
England's victory in Budapest was marred by repeated racist abuse from small pockets of Hungarian fans among the 60,000-strong crowd - this despite UEFA having already delivered a sanction saying Hungary's next two home internationals under their jurisdiction should be played in an empty stadium, as a consequence of discriminatory incidents that occurred at the Puskas Arena during Euro 2020.
As a World Cup Qualifier, Thursday night's game fell under FIFA's control, but it has now emerged that there is a clause within UEFA's rules allowing them the scope to shift any punishments to other competitions.
The relevant rule in the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, under article 75, reads: "For a UEFA disciplinary body's decision to take effect in the jurisdiction of another confederation or an association that is not a member of UEFA, the competent UEFA disciplinary body must submit a request to this effect to FIFA."
Sky Sports News has approached UEFA for comment.
Kick It Out's head of player engagement Troy Townsend told Sky Sports News FIFA should consider banning Hungary from major tournaments because of the behaviour of some of their supporters
He said: "FIFA should really leave no stone unturned now.
"I'm well aware that they had monitors in the stadium, probably in that section as well where the Hungarian ultras were and we ask for the severest possible punishment, although we haven't seen that yet given to any nation which has discriminated against players in this way.
"For me, it should be elimination from tournaments now, I don't want to see the Hungarians in a tournament again until they can sort things out so that there is no more racist abuse and homophobic abuse, so that they understand the actions of their fanbase."
Chief executive Tony Burnett said Kick It Out was "appalled to see the actions of some Hungary fans".
He added: "We stand proudly in support of the England players and staff, who once again acted with strength, grace and integrity in the face of racism that has no place in our game or our society.
"This is not the first incident like this in Hungary, so we urge FIFA to investigate this matter urgently.
"Those responsible need to be held to account and steps need to be taken to ensure scenes like [this] are not repeated."
Reacting to the latest instance of racist abuse in professional football, Show Racism the Red Card's honorary president Shaka Hislop said: "The Taking of the Knee before games remains a powerful statement of players in recognising each other's equality, and a unified call for the recognition of the equality of all people.
"The players, the coaches, the league the FA have made that abundantly clear. Any other interpretation is an intentional effort to keep sections of our communities voiceless.
"Booing players taking the knee is booing anti-racism. The majority who applaud in response represent the best of us. We may not be perfect, but we're better when we kneel, stand, cheer and support each other.
"This is the truest calling of our humanity."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "It is completely unacceptable that @England players were racially abused in Hungary last night.
"I urge @FIFAcom to take strong action against those responsible to ensure that this kind of disgraceful behaviour is eradicated from the game for good."
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland condemned the "deeply depressing" racism targeted at England players.
He told Sky News: "It was deeply depressing, it was appalling.
"The message has to go out loud and clear from leaders in society, from all of us who have responsibility, that these young men are working, they are exemplars to the community, they inspire other young people, they represent what's good in our society.
"That's why we've just got to keep getting the message out there that racism has no space in sport, no place in our society and we should be celebrating these people not denigrating them."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said "strong action must be taken against Hungary to protect players and show racism has no place in football".
Kick It Out is football's equality and inclusion organisation - working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.