England's national soccer team will walk off the field if they hear racist abuse from the crowd in their upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers, according to forward Tammy Abraham. The team plays against the Czech Republic on Friday before facing Bulgaria on Monday in a partially empty stadium — a punishment for Bulgarian supporters' racist behavior earlier this year.
"If it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us," 22-year-old Chelsea player Abraham is quoted as saying by the BBC. "Harry Kane [England's captain] even said that if we're not happy, if a player is not happy, we all come off the pitch together."
UEFA, European soccer's administrative body, now has a three-step protocol for dealing with racism from the stands, which ends with the referee taking the players off the field if in-stadium warnings don't stop racist abuse. No referee has called a halt to a game, however, since the guidelines were put in place in 2017.
"We did speak about that [the protocol]," Abraham said. "Harry Kane did ask the question about instead of going through the three steps, if we decide that we want to stop the game — no matter what the score is — if we're not happy with it, as a team we'll decide whether or not to stay on the pitch."
"If it happens and let's say there's a warning or whatever in the stadium, then it happens again, we have to make a decision as a team and with the staff," Abraham added.
Five-thousand of the 46,340 seats at Sofia's Vasil Levski stadium will be closed for the game against England and 3,000 will be closed for Bulgaria's game against the Czech Republic next month after UEFA found the country guilty of racist behavior in games against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.
England is facing its own problems with abuse from the stands this year, with Aston Villa's Premier League game against Norwich City last weekend marred by racism. Villa have promised to take action against their own fans, saying that they were "disgusted and appalled" by footage of supporters singing a racist chant.