Premier League players want to carry on taking the knee before the start of matches next season after feeling the gesture’s impact during Euro 2020.
The anti-racism display has been observed in the English top flight since the end of the 2019-20 season in response to the killing of George Floyd by a white police offer in the United States, but since the return of fans there has been incidents of booing, while other teams across the pyramid have stopped practising it.
But all 20 Premier League outfits have agreed that the gesture should continue into the 2021-22 campaign, with players ‘fully in favour’ of making a stand against discrimination.
All 20 Premier League teams are committed to taking the knee before games next season
The impact of the gesture at Euro 2020 is understood to have played a huge factor
A collective statement from the players read: ‘We feel now, more than ever, it is important for us to continue to take the knee as a symbol of our unity against all forms of racism.
‘We remain resolutely committed to our singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect and equal opportunities for all.’
Richard Masters, Premier League Chief Executive, said: ‘The Premier League, our clubs, players and match officials have a long-standing commitment to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination.
‘Following our club captains’ meeting, that collective commitment was reaffirmed and the Premier League will continue to support the players’ strong voice on this important issue.
The anti-racism display has been criticised but players are still fully in favour of carrying it on
‘Racism in any form is unacceptable and No Room For Racism makes our zero-tolerance stance clear.
‘The Premier League will continue to work with our clubs, players and football partners to bring about tangible change to remove inequality from our game.’
England’s insistence on taking a knee before games at Euro 2020 is said to be a major factor in carrying it on with Gareth Southgate’s men displaying their stance on a grand stage in front of the world’s audience as they reached the Wembley final against Italy.
The taking of the knee – which was popularised by American footballer Colin Kaepernick – has been criticised by some, with home secretary Priti Patel calling it ‘gesture politics’.
Premier League players said they were ‘resolutely’ committed to eradicating racism in football
Her words angered England defender Tyrone Mings, who took her to task after condemning racist abuse of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka following their penalty shootout misses against the Azzurri.
Brentford stopped taking a knee last season and their striker Ivan Toney said it had not proven effective enough, allowing ‘people at the the top’ to relax on the subject.
However, it is understood the newly-promoted Bees have agreed to U-turn on their stance and join the rest of the division backing it.
Queens Park Rangers also stopped taking a knee after club chief Les Ferdinand claimed the message had been ‘lost’, and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha gave up on it having said it was becoming ‘degrading’.
There had been reports that players rejected making an alternate gesture next season after the original one became contentious with supporters.
Jeers had been heard before games last season when players took the knee – including before two of England’s warm-up friendlies at the Riverside prior to Euro 2020. Boss Southgate insisted the Three Lions squad were ‘totally united’ in their stance and ‘more determined than ever’ to practise the gesture.
The gesture though has been met with boos by sections of supporters inside stadiums
It comes as the EFL threw their support behind taking the knee next season and unveiled its new ‘Together Against Discrimination’ matchday message that will see clubs from all three divisions unite against racism.
In a statement, chief executive Trevor Birch said it would support any player who wanted to take the knee and that fans who did not share their goal to end discrimination were not welcome at football matches.
‘The EFL takes the issue of tackling racism and discrimination, in all its forms, very seriously, Birch said in a statement.
‘But we must always strive to do more. That is why we commissioned an independent research on the issue of anti-discrimination on a matchday to help inform our approach.
The EFL have thrown their support behind any players who wish to take the knee
‘We have heard the message from players who wish to take the knee loud and clear, and they have the EFL’s support. Likewise, we support any individuals who take a stand against prejudice in other ways, and we must show respect and support to our clubs and players whichever way they choose.
‘Both within the EFL and across the wider game we are committed to working collectively as we are stronger when we all work together against discrimination.
‘The message is clear – prejudice and abuse – whether in the street, in the stadium or online has no place in society – and the EFL will not accept it.
‘Football is a game with many opinions. But those who do not share our opinion on removing racism and discrimination from our game are not welcome.’