Players have discussed walking off the pitch if fans continue to disrespect their fight against racism.
As Sportsmail revealed on Monday, the FA have confirmed they are investigating the disgraceful scenes that saw supporters boo players taking the knee at Millwall and Colchester on Saturday. And as the fall-out intensified on Monday, it can be disclosed:
- Footballers have spoken privately about walking off the pitch as a last resort.
- Clubs are ready to use CCTV footage to root out supporters guilty of booing.
- Players believe taking the knee is still an important gesture.
Millwall fans booed after players took the knee ahead of their Championship clash with Derby
The FA have are investigating the disgraceful scenes that saw supporters boo players kneeling
Footballers across the country will double-down on the now customary gesture of taking the knee before kick-off in a show of solidarity after the disturbing events at The Den and the JobServe Community Stadium.
Millwall and QPR joined forces on Monday night after a heated video call with Kick It Out, Show Racism the Red Card, the PFA, the FA and the EFL, whose chairman Rick Parry was present.
Both clubs issued statements to say that their players would stand arm-in-arm in a ‘show of solidarity for football’s fight against discrimination’ ahead of kick-off at The Den on Tuesday night.
But there are fears that the atmosphere will be even more toxic than it was on Saturday.
Players will also hold up an anti-racism banner, with QPR adding: ‘On top of this, some of our players wish to take the knee and we fully support this action.’
Supporters were allowed back into The Den for the first time since the Covid outbreak in March
The upsetting scenes of the weekend served to remind players there is still a long way to go in terms of eradicating prejudice from English football.
Asked about recent events, England manager Gareth Southgate said on Monday night: ‘The decision of all players and staff up and down the country has been one of solidarity with team-mates, one of solidarity with black people in society. Not in any way have I viewed that as a political statement.’
But among players, the prevailing mood is that they may have to take matters into their own hands to force lasting change.
Sources revealed players have discussed the practicalities of walking off if they feel they are subjected to racial discrimination.
Players from both clubs took a knee before kick-off as part of the on going fight against racism
Watford captain Troy Deeney said that he would have no qualms about walking off.
‘When they boo, I’ll still be there. But if it gets to that line of racial things being said to me or my players, we’ve already had a conversation about what happens. We walk, simple,’ he said.
‘We’re not here to be racially abused, we’re here to play football and entertain.’
There is a consensus that taking the knee must be persisted with as a campaigning tool given the global popularity of the Premier League.
One well-placed source said: ‘Kids are now asking, ‘Why are the players taking the knee?’ That is as valuable an educational tool as you can get.’
The FA have requested observations from Championship club Millwall and Colchester of League Two, neither of whom have signed up to the governing body’s Leadership Diversity Code.
Watford striker Troy Deeney said he will walk off the pitch if he hears racial abuse at The Den
Deeney said Saturday’s scenes proved the need for more anti-racism campaigns in football
Yet, as Sportsmail reported on Monday, there is significant doubt that the FA will be able to prove the events were racist.
Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling issued a robust statement on Monday, saying: ‘Maybe those that booed on Saturday might now understand what this gesture means to our club and will at the very least remain silent during future games while the players continue to take the knee before each kick-off.
‘Alternatively, they should just stay away from our club.’
Meanwhile, clubs will use stadium surveillance cameras to identify fans disrespecting players taking the knee.
WHY WOULD A BLACK PLAYER JOIN US NOW?
INSIGHT – Millwall fan of 40 years
That’s it. I’m done. After 40-plus years of watching Millwall, I won’t be going again.
Saturday’s events against Derby at The Den — where a large section of the 2,000 home support booed both sets of players for taking the knee — have convinced me it’s just not worth it any more.
Following Millwall is never easy and I’ve lost count of the amount of time and effort I have spent defending the club and fans — but no more.
I’ve seen and heard plenty from Millwall supporters claiming the booing was nothing to do with racial equality. They says it was a protest against the Black Lives Matter movement which, in their opinion, is a Marxist political organisation intent on destroying their way of life — whatever that may be.
In fact, it would be interesting to see if many could explain exactly what the Marxist ideology is. Directly quoting a far-right Facebook meme doesn’t count, by the way.
Having grown up in south London — and having seen numerous examples of prejudice when following Millwall — I find it ridiculous to believe Saturday’s actions were anything other than racially motivated.
Millwall have worked tirelessly to eradicate the element who have given them such a terrible reputation over the years, but I fear this latest regrettable episode has done so much damage that it will be difficult for the club to recover.
And would anyone blame a BAME footballer subsequently not wanting to play for or join the team? I certainly wouldn’t.
Millwall’s highly-rated defender Mahlon Romeo — a London-born black player and an Antigua and Barbuda international — said: ‘I don’t know what they thought taking a knee stood for. I feel really low — probably the lowest I’ve felt in my time at this club.
‘When fans are booing a peaceful gesture to highlight racism, it naturally makes you ask yourself, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’
Heartbreaking stuff — and I don’t want to be associated with a team whose seemingly core support believe booing an act fighting for racial equality is the correct thing to do.
Millwall host QPR tonight and players from both teams will now stand arm-in-arm before kick-off, although some of the visiting side have expressed the wish to take the knee.
Will there still be boos? Maybe. Will I be there to find out? Absolutely NOT.