Raheem Sterling was the target of alleged racist abuse from a Bulgaria fan during England’s Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley, the PA news agency understands.
The 24-year-old, a key figure in the fight against racism, is understood to have been subjected to discriminatory language during the first half of Saturday’s match at the national stadium.
A steward heard the individual in the Bulgaria section of the ground and they were ejected from Wembley and handed to the police.
The Metropolitan Police has confirmed to PA that the male was arrested and taken to a north London police station on suspicion of an aggravated public order offence. Following enquiries, he was released with no further action.
An FA spokesperson said: “We can confirm that an individual, who was seated in the away section of the stadium, was ejected and subsequently arrested for discriminatory abuse during the England v Bulgaria match.
“Wembley Stadium operates a zero tolerance policy on anti-social and discriminatory behaviour and anyone found guilty will be ejected and reported to the police.”
PA understands that nothing was said to Sterling during the game, with the FA’s security team speaking to the forward after the 4-0 win to make him aware of the process. UEFA was informed of the incident through its matchday delegate.
It is a sad but all too familiar story, with Sterling and his England team-mates subjected to racist abuse during March’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro.
“We know it’s going to be hostile, horrible at times,” the Manchester City forward replied when asked after that game if he almost expects the issue when playing in eastern Europe.
“Yes, it’s in the back of your mind. A few years ago it happened to Danny (Rose) in Serbia.
“We knew it would be a similar atmosphere, we weren’t thinking about racism, we were thinking more hostile, swearing, up in your face. But it’s a real shame.
“It’s a real shame to be coming somewhere to be reminded of what skin colour you are, or what you resemble.
“I know what colour I am. It’s just a shame that some people think it’s cool to make fun of you for it.”
Sterling called for the Football Association of Montenegro to be hit with a stadium ban and UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body did order their next home match to be played behind closed doors.
They also received a €20,000 fine and European football’s governing body dismissed an appeal against the sanctions.
There are understandable fears about similar problems arising in Bulgaria next month, when the Three Lions make their first trip to the country since a 3-0 win in September 2011 that was overshadowed by racist abuse in Sofia.
Ashley Young was subjected to monkey chants during that game, but the Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) was only hit by a €40,000 fine by UEFA for “discriminatory” chanting and for the lighting and throwing of fireworks.
The Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski will already be partially closed for England’s latest visit due to the racist behaviour of their supporters in the 2-1 loss in the Czech Republic in June.
The BFS is required to block off at least 5,000 seats for the visit of Gareth Southgate’s men and display a banner with the wording ‘#EqualGame’.
Bulgaria’s return fixture against the Czechs is also due to be played at a partially-closed ground due to racist behaviour in the 3-2 home loss to Kosovo in their other June fixture.
And just last month, Bulgarian sides Levski Sofia and PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv 1926 were both ordered to play their next UEFA matches in partially-closed stadiums due to racist behaviour in their respective Europa League qualifiers.
- Press Association