THE reaction of England manager Gareth Southgate and FA chairman Greg Clarke to Monday night’s disgraceful racist abuse during England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia was pitched perfectly.

The pair condemned the behaviour of a large group of Bulgarian supporters in the strongest possible terms, arguing passionately that racism has no place in football.

However, mindful of the recent examples of racist behaviour that have blighted the beautiful game in this country, not least at Hartlepool United in the last month, they acknowledged that we cannot assume that racism is a problem for other countries. As they rightly spelled out, we have to get our own house in order before we can start lecturing other countries on what they are doing right and wrong.

However, it is now up to UEFA, European football’s governing body, to take strong action against Bulgarian football and the Bulgarian Football Union. In the past, fines and punishments for racist offences have been far too weak. A slap on the wrist will not suffice this time around – Bulgaria are repeat offenders and should be thrown out of international football until they can prove they have addressed what is clearly a deep-rooted problem.

We therefore welcome last night’s confirmation that UEFA have charged the Bulgarian Football Union with racist behaviour and look forward to seeing what punishments follow. Sending out a clear message that racism will not be tolerated would be one of the few positives to emerge from a miserable evening.