Bulgaria great Hristo Stoichkov fought back tears in a TV appearance as he demanded action over the racist abuse England players suffered in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

The former Ballon d'Or winner suggested "heavier punishments" than stadium closures could be required in response to the shameful scenes that marred Monday's match.

A section of Bulgaria supporters aimed monkey chants at Raheem Sterling, Tyrone Mings and Marcus Rashford and were also seen performing Nazi salutes.

Bulgarian Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov stepped down amid the fallout and UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the organisation.

The abuse witnessed at Vasil Levski National Stadium moved 53-year-old Stoichkov during an appearance on TUDN programme Futbol Central.

"People don't deserve to suffer," Stoichkov said, before becoming emotional and hanging his head.

Play was twice halted in the first half on Monday before a group of fans were ejected from the ground.

Asked about about a suitable sanction, former Barcelona forward Stoichkov said: "That fans are not allowed in the stadium, or even heavier punishments, like in England a few years ago."

Stoichkov did not specify a particular incident involving punishment in England. He may have meant the ban from European club competitions imposed after the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster, when English clubs were barred from UEFA competitions for five years, and Liverpool excluded for a further year.

The Sofia stadium that hosted Monday's match had already been partially closed as a result of racist behaviour from fans during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov issued an apology on Wednesday and condemned the racist abuse after initially stating he did not hear it occur during his team's 6-0 defeat.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended," Balakov said.

Jonny May reflected on how a decision to snub a team night out in favour of dinner with his parents paid huge dividends as he prepares to celebrate winning a 50th England cap.

The Leicester Tigers flyer made his international debut over six years ago during a tour of Argentina, when the majority of the team was on British and Irish Lions duty.

May was overlooked for the first Test in favour of David Strettle and Christian Wade and had initially missed out on selection for the second game before the latter was drafted to Australia with the Lions.

It is here where fate was on the side of May, who had shunned a drinking session with the players not in the matchday squad the night before the game in favour of a more serene evening.

"Funnily enough Christian Wade got called up for the Lions on the morning of the game," said May. 

"And basically because my mum and dad were out and I went out for dinner with them and all the other non-23 players went out on the p***, so I got the 'go on you can play' pretty much! It's funny how it works out.

"I didn't feel ashamed but I didn't feel great because my parents were out there and it looked like I wasn't going to get a game. 

"What was probably quite a challenging couple of weeks finished on a really good note as my parents got to watch me play and I got my first cap. It all worked out in the end."

It took May until his eighth cap to score a first England try but his strike rate is now an impressive 25 in 49 Tests.

The 29-year-old has established himself as one of the best wingers in world rugby and could make his landmark England appearance in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia in Oita on Saturday.

Any personal achievements are on the back burner for May, though, whose sole focus is on helping the team defeat the Wallabies.

"If you take a step back, you'd say it's an awesome achievement, something I'm very proud of and hopefully I've made my family proud," he added. 

"But it's no time to take a step back. It's a huge team game at the weekend.

"It really has been a challenge. You have to fight to be a part of the squad, let alone to start. My mindset has changed so much on that, especially with Eddie [Jones] coming in. 

"It's a squad performance. We're competing to be the best we can be, we're not competing with each other.

"I have changed a lot, not just as a rugby player but as a person. I have matured. I have become more focused, maybe a little bit more introverted as the years have gone on.

"I'm not necessarily at a stage now where I'm working harder but I'm working smarter, just to keep developing and improving."

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov has apologised after initially saying he did not hear the racist abuse directed at England players during Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

England claimed a 6-0 win but the match was marred by incidents in the stands, which were reported to officials and resulted in two delays to the action before half-time.

UEFA opted to charge the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) for "racist behaviour (chants, Nazi salutes)", with local reports indicating four people have been arrested in connection.

BFU president Borislav Mihaylov resigned under pressure from Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov in the wake of the furore.

Before the match, coach Balakov claimed England had a bigger problem with racism in football than his own country, then insisted after the game he had not heart the chanting.

But he has since issued an apology after accepting racist abuse did occur.

In a letter posted to his official Facebook page, Balakov wrote: "I condemn all forms of racism as an unacceptable behaviour that contradicts normal human relations.

"I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and no one should ever be subjected [to it].

"I have trained many Bulgarian teams with players of different origin and never anyone judging by the colour of their skin. In addition, I have always participated actively in all initiatives involving privileged people or those who need to be involved.

"My comments before the game against England that Bulgaria did not have problems with racism is based on the fact that the local championship did not see such a problem on a large scale.

"There may have been individual cases, but it's definitely not something you see at the stadium. The majority of football fans do not participate in this kind [of behaviour], and I believe that this has also been the case in the game against England.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended.

"At the same time, however, I would like to address everyone who uses hateful language on social media, that my words have been incorrectly removed from context - and if that does not stop, I will be forced to take legal action against it."

Nathan Lyon is refusing to give up hope on featuring for Australia at their home ICC Men's T20 World Cup despite missing out on selection against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The spinner has only made two T20I appearances for his country – the last of those coming a year ago – and is not included for his country's upcoming series in 20-over cricket.

But Lyon, Australia's third-highest wicket-taker in Tests, still wants to play in all three formats and will continue to make himself available.

"Definitely I want to put my hand up for all games of cricket, especially for Australia," he said.

"Whatever game I play cricket for, I just need to make sure I'm doing my job and if I keep putting my hand up for selection, who knows where that may lead to?"

Lyon, who was facing a similar battle prior to the 50-over World Cup before entering as Australia's front-line spinner, insists there is no issue with chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns.

"He just called me and told me I wasn't in," he added.

"But I had a really good chat to Cracker [Hohns] – I get along really well with him – so if I have any issues with Cracker, I'll just pick up the phone.

"There's no doubt. I have the absolute utmost respect for him so there's no dramas there."

England manager Gareth Southgate praised the leadership qualities shown by defender Tyrone Mings after a challenging international debut against Bulgaria on Monday.

England bounced back from defeat in the Czech Republic with a 6-0 rout of Bulgaria in Sofia, but the Euro 2020 qualifier was marred by racist behaviour from home fans in the partially-closed stadium.

Mings was at the forefront of the unsavoury scenes having noticed racist chants by Bulgarian fans, before beginning the process which led to the implementation of UEFA's three-step protocol for racist abuse.

UEFA has since opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria for the scenes at the Vasil Levski National Stadium with four charges laid out by European football's governing body.

But despite the difficult circumstances which Mings made his debut in, Southgate was full of praise for the maturity shown by the Aston Villa centre-back.

"To me, since I have been watching him for the past 12 months or so, he's displayed outstanding leadership qualities throughout that time. I thought I would see that and I saw that [against Bulgaria]," Southgate told reporters.

"We presented him with his shirt and the point I made was that everybody's journey to becoming an England international is different, but his is very different to most of the boys who have just been in the academy system.

"That worldly wideness, if you like, showed. An incredibly mature performance and you could hear his communication on the pitch I'm sure from where you were sat.

"I said to him the level of opponent often isn't the issue when playing for England. It's being able to handle wearing the England shirt. I didn't think he would have to go through everything tonight that he did, but he's an impressive young man and I couldn't be happier for him.

England finish their qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 with a doubleheader against Group A opponents Montenegro and Kosovo in November.

Joe Marler said England have no fears as they prepare for Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Marler came out of test retirement at the end of the last season to join up with Eddie Jones' England squad, who are well rested for the clash in Oita having had their final pool game against France abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The 29-year-old Marler was part of the England team that did not reach the last eight in 2015, but believes the 2019 squad are better equipped to embrace the challenges of knockout rugby.  

"I don't think it's pressure. The group has now got a mind-set of 'bring it on – bring on the challenges'," he told reporters.

"We embrace it and look forward to it as opposed to shying away from it.

"I have been involved in teams who have let nerves overcome them, caved in and allowed them to become negative. I don't feel that in this group. The boys embrace the nervousness and use it as a positive energy to drive us on."

Marler had retired from internationals in 2018 due to family reasons but could not resist the opportunity to win a World Cup with England, having been called into the squad for the showpiece tournament in Japan.

"That was part of the reason I came out of retirement. I could see the potential in this group and I wanted a taste of that. That's ultimately what's driving me on for the next couple of weeks," he added.

"It hasn't been easy. I've had to work my buns off to try and get back to an emotional and mental state capable of contributing to the squad the best I can.

"And the physical state too. That has been even harder. You come out of it for a year and you forget how fast they do everything."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called for "new, stronger and more effective ways to eradicate racism in football" after England players were subjected to abuse in Bulgaria.

UEFA has charged the Bulgarian Football Union over racist behaviour by fans during England's 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win.

The game was halted twice before half-time and a group of supporters who made "monkey chants" and Nazi salutes were ejected from the ground.

Tuesday's fallout from those shameful scenes included BFU president Borislav Mihaylov resigning after Prime Minister Boyko Borissov threatened to cut funding if he did not step down.

FIFA pledged to extend any sanctions imposed by UEFA worldwide and Infantino, who previously fronted European football's governing body, suggested now is the time for football to take a harder line against racism, including life bans for any perpetrators.

"So many times we say there is no place for racism in football, but nonetheless we still face challenges to tackle this problem in our sport, as we do in society," he said.

"We will need the support of public authorities to help us identify and punish the culprits but we probably also need to think more broadly on what we can do to fix this. 

"When we proposed the three-step procedure in 2009 when I was at UEFA, and then made the regulations even tougher a few years later, we could not have imagined that so shortly thereafter we would again be having to think of how to combat this obnoxious disease that seems to be getting even worse in some parts of the world."

Infantino added: "I call on all football governing bodies to join us and think together of new, stronger and more effective ways to eradicate racism in football. 

"As a starting point, I suggest that all competition organisers enact regulations which envisage life bans from stadiums for those who are found guilty of racist behaviour at a football match. FIFA can then enforce such bans at a worldwide level."

UEFA's three-step procedure to deal with racist incidents was partially enacted during Monday's match, with the initial stoppage coming after England players reported chants to the referee and an announcement calling for the abuse to cease was made over the stadium's public address system.

After a further complaint, match official Ivan Bebek asked England manager Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane whether he wished for them to take the teams from the field – in line with step two.

The close proximity to half-time was a factor in England being minded to play on and Southgate credited Bebek's conduct throughout as being "outstanding".

England debutant Tyrone Mings confirmed the players unanimously agreed to continue playing at half-time. The third step in the UEFA plan after taking the players from the field is an abandonment if abuse persists.

Infantino's UEFA successor Aleksander Ceferin made a strong defence of his organisation's record when it comes to dealing with racism.

"As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about UEFA’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark," he said.

"UEFA, in close cooperation with the FARE network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

"UEFA's sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches."

Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov has warned foreign players will not want to play in his homeland after the racist abuse that stained Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier against England.

UEFA has charged the Bulgarian Football Union over the actions of some fans at Vasil Levski National Stadium during the 6-0 defeat, namely racist chants and Nazi salutes.

The game was halted twice before half-time due to the abuse and Popov, 31, was praised for remonstrating with a group of supporters at the interval.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, who opened the scoring for England, tweeted: "Also been told what the Bulgaria captain did at half-time. 

"To stand alone and do the right thing takes courage and acts like that shouldn’t go unnoticed. #NoToRacism."

Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov, who claimed not to have heard the offensive chants, suggested after the match that Popov was addressing his team's poor performance.

However, the Rostov midfielder left no doubt he was standing up against a blight on the game that "needs to be eradicated".

"First, I tried to talk with the stewards who were supposed to control the situation," Popov said, as quoted by the Guardian.

"We're all suffering from that kind of behaviour. Do you think a foreign player would like to come and play in Bulgaria after what happened tonight?

"Racism is a world problem that needs to be eradicated. We're all people regardless of the skin colour."

On Tuesday, BFU president Borislav Mihaylov resigned after Prime Minister Boyko Borissov threatened to cut funding if he did not step down.

Bulgaria goalkeeper Plamen Iliev has accused England players of overreacting in the face of racist abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

Gareth Southgate's team cruised to a 6-0 victory in the Bulgarian capital, with Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling both scoring twice to take England to the brink of qualification.

But Sterling was one of the players targeted by racist chanting during the match, which was stopped twice before half-time – initially for a stadium announcement calling for the abuse to cease before a group of Bulgaria fans were ejected from the Vasil Levski National Stadium.

Southgate and his players discussed whether they should resume the match during half-time before closing out a commanding win, with the abuse they received widely condemned afterwards.

However, Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov claimed he did not hear the offensive chanting and said it must be "proven" before his country received any punishment.

That view was apparently not shared at board level, with Bulgarian Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov – a former international goalkeeper for Bulgaria – tending his resignation after prime minister Boyko Borissov threatened to cut the organisation's funding if he remained in the wake of Monday's shameful scenes.

But Bulgaria's current goalkeeper fell into line with the views expressed by his coach.

"If I am honest, I believe they [the fans] behaved well,” Iliev said, as quoted by the Guardian.

"There wasn't any abuse [as far as I could hear] and I think they [the England players] overreacted a bit.

"The public was on a good level – I didn’t hear any bad language used towards their or our players."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin called on the "football family" and governments to "wage war on the racists" on Tuesday in a strongly worded statement.

James Horwill thinks the cancellation of England's Rugby World Cup clash with France could work in Australia's favour when the teams meet in a blockbuster quarter-final on Saturday.

England were due to face Les Bleus in their final Pool C match in Yokohama last weekend, but Typhoon Hagibis prevented the fixture from going ahead.

It led to England coach Eddie Jones saying the typhoon gods must be smiling on his team after they were given a weekend off and finished top to set up a showdown with the Wallabies.

Yet former Australia captain Horwill believes England will be wishing they had locked horns for a pool decider with their Six Nations rivals, having won their other three games at a canter.

Horwill told Omnisport: "England are a good side, well drilled and very disciplined with what they do. When they get on the front foot, they are very hard to stop.

"I think they would have liked to have had that game against France because it would have been a strong test and a really challenge.

"They have come through the pool stage being able to deal with the opposition quite comfortably, which is obviously a good thing for them, but they haven't had a big test.

"It depends on how you look at it. From the point of view of someone like Billy Vunipola, with a sore ankle, he's had extra time to rest up and get fit in a week off.

"They would have wanted to play again, but they should feel good going into the game. But if the heat comes sometimes you need to think, 'We've been here before last week and we know how to get through it'.

"Obviously that is not something England have had to deal with."

UEFA has charged the Bulgarian Football Union over racist behaviour by Bulgaria fans during Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier against England in Sofia.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin called on the "football family" and governments to "wage war on the racists" after England players became the latest targets for sickening abuse.

Ceferin launched a staunch defence on Tuesday of the governing body's approach to tackling racism and called for the large-scale response after the scenes that marred England's 6-0 win over Bulgaria.

The Euro 2020 qualifying match in Sofia was overshadowed by the sound of monkey chants and the sight of Nazi salutes from a section of home supporters.

England debutant Tyrone Mings called the disgraceful scenes to the attention of the assistant referee, triggering the first implementation of a new three-step UEFA protocol.

The match was paused and an announcement was made over the public address system at the Vasil Levski National Stadium, urging offending fans to desist.

It did not escalate to the second and third protocol stages, which would have seen the players return to the dressing rooms ahead of a possible abandonment, but the damage had nonetheless been done.

UEFA has come under fire for its handling of racism within football, but Ceferin insists the European organisation has adopted a tough stance and he urged wider society to take a stand on the issue.

Ceferin said: "Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. 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 to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.

"Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress."

Bulgaria Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov resigned on Tuesday after government pressure on him to make way for new leadership.

"There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory," Ceferin said.

"The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.

"The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.

"As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about UEFA’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark.

"UEFA, in close cooperation with the FARE network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

"UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches."

Bulgaria's prime minister has called for the resignation of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) president after the country's 6-0 defeat to England in Monday's controversial Euro 2020 qualifying match.

Prime minister Boyko Borissov described the loss in Sofia as a "shameful" result and condemned the the racist abuse directed at England players, which forced two stoppages in play in the first half.

The first break prompted an appeal over the stadium's public address system urging fans to refrain from racist behaviour, in line with UEFA protocols.

Several spectators left the stadium during a second, more prolonged stoppage shortly before half-time. 

In a statement published on social media, Borissov threatened to withhold support and funding for the BFU unless its president, former Levski Sofia and Reading goalkeeper Borislav Mihaylov, steps down.

The statement read: "I urge Borislav Mihaylov to immediately resign as president of the Bulgarian Football Union!

"After yesterday's shameful loss of the Bulgarian national team and in view of the poor results of our football, I ordered the minister [of youth and sports] Krasen Kralev to terminate any relations with the Bulgarian Football Union, including financial ones, until Borislav Mihaylov's resignation.

"I also strongly condemn the behaviour of some of those present at the stadium.

"It is unacceptable that Bulgaria, which is one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and [where] people of different ethnicities and religions live in peace, [is] associated with racism and xenophobia."

England were leading 4-0 when Gareth Southgate and his players chose to see out the remaining 45 minutes following a half-time discussion.

After the match, Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov claimed not to have heard the racist taunts.

"I was concentrating on the game, I didn't hear anything," Balakov said.

"I just talked to the English press and I told them that if this is proven to be true then we have to be ashamed and apologise for it.

"But once again, first it has to be proven to be true."

Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov was seen talking with a section of Bulgaria supporters at half-time, with his actions drawing praise from England forward Marcus Rashford.

England number eight Billy Vunipola trained on Tuesday and is "very likely" to start Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia, according to assistant coach John Mitchell.

The Saracens man twisted an ankle in the pool-stage win over Argentina and would not have been risked at the weekend had England's clash with France gone ahead, rather than being cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Vunipola has returned to full training, however, and Mitchell is confident he will be fit for the clash with the Wallabies in Oita.

"Billy is progressing really well," he said. "He has trained again today so we are very confident in progression each day.

"He is a very important player to us and a very likeable player as well. He fits well within the team."

Asked to rate Vunipola's chances of playing, he added: "Very likely."

England had another observer at training with Australian rugby league legend Ricky Stuart invited to attend by head coach Eddie Jones.

Stuart's involvement has raised eyebrows in the Australia camp, not least from their coach Michael Cheika, but Mitchell is confident England's players will benefit.

He said: "Ricky and his coaching group have just arrived today. It's great to see them again.

"One of the great things I believe Eddie does in our environment is encourage a learning environment.

"Ricky is not the only coach from rugby league or any other sport that has come in, we have them on a regular basis. We want to see what we are doing can be improved and we like to learn off others and that's the great opportunity we have.

"It's just a watching, learning and sharing process that occurs, to get somebody in we can share and learn off and create a stimulus around. They've just recently played in one of the major rugby league competitions in the world [NRL grand final], you'd be stupid if you weren't able to gain something from that."

Mitchell, who has coached in Australia with the Western Force, is expecting a tough game against Cheika's men.

"They will be clever at the weekend," he said.

"They are always clever and always have the ability to surprise. They love ball in their hands which is something which they thrive on."

UEFA is awaiting reports from the referee and match delegate before deciding their next move following the racist abuse directed at England players in Sofia on Monday.

Gareth Southgate's side beat Bulgaria 6-0 in Euro 2020 qualifying but the match was overshadowed by monkey chants and Nazi salutes from home supporters at the Vasil Levski National Stadium.

The incidents prompted the match to be halted twice in the first half - following UEFA protocol for tackling incidents of abuse at games - with a third meaning the game would have been abandoned.

Omnisport understands the Control, Ethics and Disciplinary (CEDB) arm of European football's governing body will now assess reports from the match official Ivan Bebek as well as the match delegate, who will also receive information provided by spotters from anti-racism group FARE.

The CEDB can also take reports from other sources, including the Football Association (FA), which has already called for an investigation "as a matter of urgency".

An FA statement read: "We can confirm that England players were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting while playing in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria.

"This is unacceptable at any level of the game and our immediate focus is supporting the players and staff involved.

"As we are sadly aware, this is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behaviour in society, let alone in football.

"We will be asking UEFA to investigate as a matter of urgency."

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov claimed not to have heard the chanting and accused the England supporters of "unacceptable" behaviour.

He told ITV Sport: "I personally did not hear the chanting that you are most probably referring to. I saw that the referee stopped the game.

"But I also have to say that the unacceptable behaviour was not only on behalf of the Bulgaria fans but also the English fans, who were whistling and shouting during the Bulgarian national anthem.

"During the second half they used words against our fans, which I find unacceptable."

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