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FA launches investigation into fans booing players taking a knee

Millwall v Barnsley – Sky Bet Championship – The Den
(Image credit: Kieran Cleeves)

The Football Association has announced it is investigating following the booing of players at Millwall and Colchester as they took a knee.

On Saturday the Championship match between Millwall and Derby at the Den and Colchester’s League Two home clash with Grimsby both saw a number of fans boo the players’ anti-racism gesture before kick-off.

A statement from the FA on Monday said: “The FA can confirm that investigations are under way 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.”

QPR boss Mark Warburton has said his players will take the knee when they visit Millwall on Tuesday.

Speaking in September, Rangers director of football Les Ferdinand said they felt the gesture’s “impact has now been diluted”.

Ferdinand added: “Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will.”

Mark Warburton's QPR travel to Millwall on Tuesday (John Walton/PA).

Mark Warburton’s QPR travel to Millwall on Tuesday (John Walton/PA).

However, Warburton said at a press conference on Monday: “In light of certain events, we will stand solidly behind the cause and our players will take the knee tomorrow night.

“This club is so proactive in this area, it is such a diverse club, one of the most diverse clubs in the country, if not the most diverse, and it’s not about token gestures, it’s about positive action. But certainly tomorrow night, we will show solidarity.

“QPR’s stance has been made very clear and I think it’s 100 per cent correct. All I can do is say we recognise the stain on society discrimination brings and we abhor that in all forms and we stand against it.

“For tomorrow night we stand solidly behind it, but moving forward, people will do what they think is the right thing.”

The booing from Millwall fans led interim Derby boss Wayne Rooney to condemn their “disgraceful and mindless behaviour”.

And Colchester owner Robbie Cowling has told supporters who want to boo players taking a knee they are not welcome at the club.

“It is undeniable that black and other ethnic minority people are still the victims of racism, and the black footballers and staff at Colchester United feel that they are in a position of privilege that has been fought for through the blood and sweat of their ancestors,” he said in a statement.

“A position that in 2020 the average black person is still not afforded.

“Those taking the knee, and supporting the taking of the knee, not only show their willingness to support the drive to eradicate racial oppression but force it to be a talking point even when it’s uncomfortable.

“Undeniably, taking the knee is a fundamental catalyst in pushing the conversation and thus the necessary changes forward.

“I’m sure the vast majority of Colchester United fans are supportive and want to play their part in showing they back the actions of our players.

“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 whilst the players continue to take the knee before each kick-off.

“Alternatively, they should just stay away from our club because anyone that still wants to boo now that I have explained the purpose and importance of the taking of the knee is not welcome at our club.

“I will be happy to refund anyone for the remaining value of their season permit if that is the reason they feel they can no longer attend our games.”

The Professional Footballers’ Association described the booing as “a sad indictment of the lack of understanding and empathy for the players’ fight against racism and discrimination”.

It urged Millwall to “act swiftly to identify the section of the crowd who booed the players”.

The PFA added in a statement on Monday: “The decision to take the knee – as a result of the death of George Floyd in the USA and the global tide of support for the BLM movement – was a player-led decision in solidarity and support for black people facing racism. We have all seen players face racist abuse on and off the pitch – this is not a political issue it is a human rights issue.”

Foreign office minister James Cleverly added the Government’s voice to the criticism.

Cleverly told BBC Breakfast: “The footballers clearly wanted to demonstrate solidarity with people who had either been victims of racism or fighting against racism, I think that’s a noble thing for them to do. Ultimately what those fans did was wrong.”

Watford captain Troy Deeney told talkSPORT the Hornets would ignore any booing of taking a knee at Millwall when they visit the Den on December 29, but admitted his players would walk off if subjected to any racist abuse.

Asked what Watford would do if Millwall fans booed taking a knee, Deeney said: “When they boo? I’ll still be there.

“But if we get to that line of racial things being said to me or my players, we’ve already had a conversation about what will happen. We walk. Simple. We’re not here to be racially abused. We’re here to play football and entertain.”

Watford v Cardiff City – Sky Bet Championship – Vicarage Road

Watford captain Troy Deeney has said the Hornets will leave the field if any of their players are racially abused (Steven Paston/PA)

Cowling, meanwhile, called on Colchester’s fans to applaud taking a knee from now on.

“It would be very disappointing if anyone does decide to boo again,” he added.

“Therefore, going forward I would like to make the actions of those fans who do boo the taking of the knee completely irrelevant.

“For every game where the players choose to take the knee, I would like all of our fans to join me in applauding this gesture to ensure our players know we fully support them.”