The Football Association has launched an investigation into incidents at Millwall and Colchester United, which saw fans boo players taking a knee before the game.
The FA met today to consider their next step after widespread condemnation of both occurrences.
Millwall fans booed players taking a knee ahead of their Championship clash at The Den, which ended in a 1-0 home loss to Derby, leading Wayne Rooney to condemn their ‘disgraceful and mindless behaviour’.
Events at Millwall will be investigated after fans booed players taking a knee at the weekend
While, Colchester’s 2-1 victory over Grimsby Town in League Two was overshadowed by a number of fans booing the players’ anti-racism gesture before kick-off at the Jobserve Community Stadium.
A statement from the FA said: ‘The FA can confirm that investigations are underway into crowd-related incidents at both The Den and JobServe Community Stadium on Saturday 5 December 2020.
‘Observations have been sought from all of the relevant parties and they will have until Thursday 10 December 2020 to provide their respective responses.’
The FA has not specified the terms of the investigation, but the organisation does have powers to take action against a club for discriminatory behaviour, such as chanting, by groups of spectators.
The FA are also looking into booing before Colchester’s match with Grimsby on Saturday
The investigation is likely to consider if the booing of players was a protest or discrimination, as well as what action the clubs took in managing the situation.
A FA Regulatory Commission can consider a range of actions where a club’s fans have been found to behave in a discriminatory way.
These include, financial penalties and action plans to implement improvements to match-day operations.
Sportsmail reported on Sunday that there is uncertainty whether the flashpoints would meet the threshold for a proven act of discrimination.
Wayne Rooney, interim manager of Millwall’s opponents, Derby County, led the outrage
Both clubs have spoken out against the actions of their fans.
Colchester chairman, Robbie Cowling, urged those who want to keep booing the pre-match gesture not to return – and offered to refund the season tickets of anyone who chooses to accept his request.
Millwall said it was dismayed and saddened by events which marred Saturday’s match and said the impact was felt by players, management, staff and volunteers.
Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out chairman, said any attempt to portray the booing at Millwall and Colchester as a ‘political disagreement’ with ‘BLM’ was ‘complete and utter nonsense’.
A statement from the Millwall Supporters’ Club on Sunday, however, said the boos were aimed at the ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) organisation which, it added, held ‘extreme political views’.
But Kick It Out Chairman Sanjay Bhandari said the attempt to portray the booing as a ‘political disagreement’ with ‘BLM’ was ‘complete and utter nonsense’.
The Professional Footballers’ Association described the events at Millwall as ‘a sad indictment of the lack of understanding and empathy for the players’ fight against racism and discrimination’.
Robbie Cowling chairman of Colchester United has spoken out against fans who booed players
It urged Millwall to ‘act swiftly to identify the section of the crowd who booed the players’.
The booing at Millwall and Colchester prompted widespread condemnation, with Derby’s interim manager and former England captain Rooney leading the outrage.
‘It is really important that the vast majority of us show respect and support of each other,’ said Rooney, 35.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing Lead said the police would meet with Kick It Out, the organisation that works to challenge discrimination in football, ‘to discuss this issue and potential action’.
He added: ‘Booing, no matter how insensitive or deliberately antagonistic, is unlikely to constitute a criminal offence in itself.
Colchester United and Grimsby Town players took a knee prior to their match on Saturday
‘However, each case is judged on its own facts, and where people engage in racist chanting or activities, legislation is in place to deal with it and we will work proactively to identify and prosecute such individuals.
‘Where behaviour does not meet the criminal or Football Banning Order threshold, it is always open to the club or relevant league to take action and we expect them to do so.
‘We are meeting with Kick It Out later this week to discuss this issue and potential action.’