United Kingdom

England fans obey Gareth Southgate's pleas to respect players 'taking the knee'

The majority of England fans inside Wembley stadium today obeyed Gareth Southgate's please to respect players as they took the knee ahead of their opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia.

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. 

Some fans booed the players when they performed the action before England's friendly matches against Austria and Romania last week. 

The majority of England fans inside Wembley stadium today obeyed Gareth Southgate's please to respect players as they took the knee ahead of their opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia

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

Southgate said last week that he would not allow his players to continue to be questioned about the knee and the subsequent reaction once the tournament got under way.

A UEFA spokesman told the PA news agency ahead of the game the governing body cannot punish any nations whose supporters do react to the gesture.

'UEFA has a zero tolerance against racism and any player who wants to demand equality amongst human beings by taking the knee will be allowed to do so,' he said.

'We urge spectators to show respect for teams and players taking the knee.

The majority of England flans applauded the players today when they opted to take a knee

'UEFA will not take disciplinary action against the national association for their fans' reaction to this initiative as there are no legal grounds to do so in the current competition and disciplinary regulations and to do so would be to punish a national association whose players have taken a stand against racism.'

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'.

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.'

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.'

Southgate said last week that he would not allow his players to continue to be questioned about the knee and the subsequent reaction once the tournament got under way. Pictured: England players Raheem Sterling and Kieran Trippier taking the knee today

Football news:

The more the fly spins in the web, the more entangled it becomes. Here is how Belarusian officials and coaches persuaded the athlete to go home
Ronaldinho on Messi's victory at the Copa America: This is the only thing that he lacked. I am very happy for him
Mikel Arteta: Jaka stays. He is a key Arsenal player
Parti injured his ankle in a friendly game with Chelsea. Arsenal midfielder will be examined tomorrow
Umtiti agrees to leave Barca, but only to a club from the Champions League or claiming the title
Sassuolo is ready to give Locatelli to Juve on loan for 5 million euros with an obligation to buy out at least 30 million
Sofia Pozdnyakova: It's more fun with the audience, the excitement wakes up. But we do not have such a popular sport as football or figure skating. We are used to it