Kick It Out asks England fans who booed players taking a knee to show support

Kick It Out has urged England fans who booed when players took a knee ahead of Wednesday’s friendly win over Austria to unite and support the fight against racism.

After renditions of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ and the national anthems, there were audible jeers as the players took the knee at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium – the first time an England side have made the anti-racism gesture in front of a home crowd.

It was soon drowned out by cheers among the near-7,000 crowd but England will hope the immediate reaction does not follow the team
throughout the upcoming European Championships.

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Head of player engagement at Kick It Out Troy Townsend said in a statement on Thursday: “Taking a knee was a gesture chosen by the players as a stance for greater racial equality in football.

“It is important to reiterate they have said explicitly that it was not intended to be connected to any specific political movement.

“All the players and staff who wear the Three Lions shirt with pride share a collective voice in the fight against racism.

“To those that booed, we ask you to support them irrespective of the gesture they use.

“The actions and support of all fans can send a powerful message across the whole country that football is united in the fight against racism.”

England v Austria – International Friendly – Riverside Stadium
England fans wave flags in the stands (PA)

The initial jeers on Wednesday night were overtaken by a groundswell of support and, with other stadiums across England witnessing similar responses since the return of fans, England boss Gareth Southgate said after the game that he felt the message behind taking the knee before kick-off is being lost and he wants to see the meaning behind it reaffirmed.

“I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don’t agree with. That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other,” said Southgate.

“I think the majority of people understand it, some people aren’t quite understanding the message and I suppose we are seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment.”