I’VE never been to Bulgaria but it appears to be a place seething with racism, or at least that’s the impression we have been given, prior to and following the game against England. But is this reaction justified?

Searching the British press, from the 1980s to the present day, it is noticeable that there have been a number of race-related football incidents. However, on the wider issue of racism in Bulgaria there is almost nothing. The EU have raised concerns about the treatment of Roma people in Bulgaria and this appears to be a genuine issue but still one that is difficult to measure. Bulgaria has also banned the burka and has been described as racist for doing so. But then France, Belgium, Denmark and other European countries have done the same.

In case you missed the England game, what we saw were around 100 young men shouting racist comments and giving Nazi salutes. In the second half they left, on mass, with some boos from both England and other Bulgarian fans. This was no mass display of racism, in fact in many respects quite the opposite, with the vast majority taking no part in the racism and many clearly being angered by the small minority.

Considering the hundred or so “fans” that were involved in the shouting, the reaction to it has been extraordinary - the number of articles written, the TV coverage, international condemnation, resignations by Bulgarian officials, even Boris has come out to denounce the racist Bulgarians.

Given all this, it is worth remembering that when Bulgaria (and Romania) joined the EU in 2007 the Labour government put limits on their right to travel to the UK. The government also encouraged stories of “an explosion of crime” that we could face from what they clearly saw as thieving Eastern Europeans. To add to the outrage, ex-equal opportunities chief Trevor Phillips suggested limits were needed because, apparently, Bulgarian’s have “attitudes towards black people which date back to the 1950s”.

Historically, racism was understood to involve both power and prejudice. It was seen as a real problem when people of wealth and power pushed it and developed policies that had a real impact on the lives of ethnic minorities and migrants. Like Bulgaria, the countries that have often been targeted in this way are the poorer countries of the world. Bulgaria is not that exactly but is one of the poorest in the EU.

We appear to have lost any capacity for perspective when it comes to the issue of racism, particularly when it comes from working class football fans and even more so when they are supposedly backward East Europeans. The reaction to the Bulgaria game was little short of a moral panic.