United Kingdom

The FA is accused of 'coercion' after writing to MP who complained about players taking the knee

The Football Association has been accused of 'coercion' by a Tory MP who voiced his displeasure at players taking a knee ahead of England's opening Euro 2020 match.

Andrew Bridgen, the representative for North West Leicestershire, tweeted last week to criticise the Three Lions' players for kneeling ahead of kick off.

Afterwards he was sent a letter by the FA's head of diversity warning booing the move, introduced following last year's murder of George Floyd, could have ramifications such as costing England the 2030 World Cup.

But the MP replied warning he did not 'respond well to coercion', according to the Sunday Express.

England footballers including captain Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard took the knee against Austria and will continue to do so

He tweeted last week: 'England footballers are encouraged to take the knee, the symbol of the divisive & Marxist BLM group, but not allowed to display poppies on their shirts in support of our veterans and those serving in our armed forces, and they wonder why the crowd voiced their protestations.'

According to the Sunday Express following the tweet Edleen John, the FA's head of diversity wrote a letter saying the squad 'benefits from being at their best' and 'need the country to be behind them'.

But Mr Bridgen replied: 'It appears that you not only object to your paying supporters and the public voicing their opinion on your controversial actions but also elected MPs.

'I'm afraid I don't respond positively to attempts at coercion.'

Among those backing the players to continue to take the knee is England manager Gareth Southgate.

Andrew Bridgen warned he 'does not respond well to coercion'

He said after the Austria friendly when boos were heard at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium before being drowned out by the majority of the crowd: 'It's not something on behalf of our black players that I wanted to hear because it feels as though it is a criticism of them.

'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.'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also told England fans not to boo the team for taking the knee in protest against racial injustice.

 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'. 

The taking of the knee started since football resumed last June following the Covid pandemic, as the Black Lives Matter movement gathered pace following the death of George Floyd. 

England international Alexander-Arnold at the time called for 'meaningful change' to fight racism as he declared that the 'system is broken' in a powerful message on Twitter last June.

England manager Gareth Southgate, pictured with Brighton and England footballer Ben White, has backed his players 

In June last year against Everton, the Liverpool full-back also decided to wear boots carrying the message Black Lives Matter, which he auctioned off after the game to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

He said at the time: 'It can no longer just be our feet where we express ourselves. We have to use our profile, the platforms we have and the spotlight that shines on us to say, it's time for meaningful change. The system is broken, it's stacked against sections of our society and we all have a responsibility to fix it.'

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