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The loophole that allowed Hungary fans to be at the World Cup qualifier with England, despite being under a UEFA ban for racist abuse, must be closed the Professional Footballers’ Association said today.
Hungary were given a two-game stadium ban, with a further one suspended, by European football’s governing body after racist and homophobic abuse by their fans during Euro 2020 matches at the Puskas Arena in Budapest this summer.
However, as Thursday night’s match with England was a FIFA game the ban could not be implemented, and it was subsequently marred by racist abuse.
FIFA today launched an investigation after Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were both targeted and missiles were thrown on the pitch during England’s 4-0 win.
England players were booed loudly when they took the knee before kick-off, and the PFA said that highlighted the need for the anti-discrimination protest to continue.
The players’ union are calling for an end to the flaw in the rules concerning FIFA and UEFA punishments and want lifetime bans for any fans identified for causing abuse.
In a statement they said: “The PFA condemn the racist abuse and booing of England players during last night’s World Cup qualifier against Hungary.
“We will be asking FIFA to investigate the sickening abuse we saw at last night’s game, and we demand they issue the strongest sanctions possible, such as lifetime stadium bans.
“Global football governing bodies need to demonstrate that these behaviours will never be tolerated in our game. Stopping racist abuse at matches must be at the top of their agenda, and loopholes that allow already-sanctioned racist fans to attend games must be closed.
“In every consultation we have had with them, players have overwhelmingly shown they support taking the knee before matches. The incidents at last night’s game are a perfect demonstration of why it is still necessary.
“As the players’ union, our support for their chosen form of protest remains unequivocal.
“Footballers have the right to play the game without being abused.
“Stadiums are their place of work, and all football stakeholders must work together to protect them from racist discrimination.
“The well-being of players remains our top priority, and we will continue doing everything we can to support and protect them.
“We stand by the England squad with football fans worldwide, united against racism and the discrimination of players representing their country.”
Hungary’s stadium ban will not kick in until they play in the Nations League next year.