Thousands of football fans piled into venues in London and elsewhere around the country this afternoon to watch England kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia at Wembley stadium.
In scorching temperatures of 82.4F (28C) in the capital, fans dressed in England colours or went completely shirtless as they held pints of beer aloft ahead of the 2pm kick-off at the national stadium.
England’s men’s team are playing against the same side which knocked them out at the semi-final stage of the 2018 World Cup.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only 22,500 fans will be watching inside the stadium, meaning thousands will instead watch the match on big screens at dedicated fan zones such as the one in Trafalgar Square in central London.
Elsewhere, supporters packed out the pier in Hastings, East Sussex, whilst pubs in cities including Nottingham were also full of excited fans.
The majority of England fans inside Wembley stadium today obeyed Gareth Southgate’s pleas to respect players as they took the knee ahead moments before kick-off.
A small number of fans were heard booing players as they performed the gesture to protest against racism, before the jeers were drowned out by applause.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate, the Football Association and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had all urged supporters not to boo the anti-racism stance.
England’s game today comes less than 24 hours after Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed and needed to be given life-saving CPR during his side’s match with Finland.
The former Tottenham star was rushed to hospital, where he is now said to be in a stable condition.
Thousands of football fans piled into venues in London and elsewhere around the country this afternoon to watch England kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia at Wembley stadium. Pictured: Fans at the Vinegar Yard bar near London Bridge
In scorching temperatures of 82.4F (28C) in the capital, fans dressed in white or went completely shirtless as they held pints of beer aloft ahead of the 2pm kick-off at the national stadium in the capital
Elsewhere, supporters packed out the pier in Hastings, East Sussex, whilst pubs in cities including Nottingham were also full of excited fans
The UK side committed to taking a knee before games at the tournament to protest racism – but only went down for a few seconds unlike in the Premier League.
Wales and Switzerland footballers took the knee ahead of their clash in the Euros yesterday.
The faced each other in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, at 2pm as they were the first home nation to play.
It comes after Boris Johnson told England fans not to boo the team for taking the knee in protest against racial injustice after previously failing to criticise the scenes.
A No 10 spokesman said the PM wants the public to ‘cheer them on, not boo’ ahead of Euro 2020 and explicitly supported those who decide to take part in the protest.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman earlier this week declined to condemn those who booed players, only going so far as urging them to be ‘respectful’.
England fans enjoy the atmosphere prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between England and Croatia at Wembley Stadium
This trio of female supporters are watching the game in the sun at The Trent Navigation pub in Nottingham
But Downing Street has now gone further to tell crowds not to jeer the national team after coming under pressure to take a firmer stance.
Asked if Mr Johnson backs players taking the knee, No 10 said: ‘Yes. The Prime Minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.
‘The Prime Minister wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo.’
Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of ‘a failure of leadership’ by failing to criticise the booing as the Labour leader backed the squad’s ‘important collective decision’.
‘The idea you boo the team is completely wrong,’ he told the Guardian in an interview that took place ahead of No 10 reinforcing its line.
‘The Prime Minister was wrong when he refused to call it out. He didn’t have the guts to call it out, he hedged his bets and in doing so he undermined the team on the verge of this competition.’
Benches have been installed in Trafalgar Square so fans an watch the England game on a big screen
These fans looked to be enjoying themselves near Wembley Stadium this afternoon ahead of the match’s kick-off at 2pm
England fans also gathered at Times Square in Newcastle to cheer on the Three Lions this afternoon
England fans and a Scotland fan at the fan zone in Trafford Park, Manchester as they watch the UEFA Euro 2020 Group D match between England and Croatia
In a message to fans which was posted on its Twitter account yesterday, the FA said England’s players were taking the knee as a way of ‘peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice and inequality’
The Football Association has pleaded with fans not to jeer the gesture ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia at Wembley
England supporters arrive at Wembley Stadium ahead of today’s match against Croatia – the side who beat them in the semi-final of the World Cup in 2018
In a message to fans which was posted on its Twitter account yesterday, the FA said England’s players were taking the knee as a way of ‘peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice and inequality.’
Urging fans not to boo players again, they added: There can be no doubt as to why the players are taking the knee and what it represents in a footballing context.
‘We encourage those that oppose this action to reflect on the message you are sending to the players you are supporting.
‘Please respect their wishes and remember that we should all be united in the fight to tackle discrimination. Together.
‘They will do their best for you. Please do your best for them.’
Fans at London venue the Vinegar Yard enjoyed cold pints as they made the most of the incredible weather by preparing to watch the England game outside
Fans showed their support for Gareth Southgate’s side by donning England shirts. Many of them will be disappointed not to be able to watch the game from inside Wembley stadium
On Hastings pier, these three fans held the England flag aloft as they supported their side in the incredible sunshine and warm temperatures
Croatia supporters also gathered near Wembley Stadium to support their team against England
The symbol of anti-racism solidarity gained attention in American football in 2016 as they protested against police brutality and racism in the US.
The act has since spread further and was adopted by football players in the UK partly to demonstrate that racism should not be tolerated in the sport.
The FA received the backing of tournament organisers UEFA last week amid frustrations that the Government had refused to condemn fans who booed.
In addition to UEFA’s plea to fans, there will be a series of messages displayed on the big screen at today’s game condemning discrimination and asking for the players to be treated with respect.
‘UEFA has a zero tolerance against racism and any player who wants to demand equality among human beings by taking the knee will be allowed to do so,’ a UEFA spokesperson said.
‘We urge spectators to show respect for teams and players taking the knee.’
The Croatian FA said they would leave the decision to their players as to whether to join England in taking a knee. The team have not performed the gesture in their recent friendlies.
England manager Gareth Southgate earlier said the players would continue with the protest and said he has ‘a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.