The Daily Telegraph - Business

England left isolated in taking knee

> Scotland join others in group to discard the protest gesture > FA wants applause to drown out any jeers from spectators

- By Ben Rumsby, Tom Morgan and Daniel Schofield

England were last night left isolated in taking the knee for their three European Championsh­ip group matches after Scotland announced they would not join them.

On the day a poll laid bare the deep divisions among supporters over the gesture, the Scottish Football Associatio­n said its players would not resume taking the knee, having stopped in March.

Croatia, England’s opening opponents, confirmed their squad would not take the knee on a collective basis during Euro 2020, and Czech Republic had already announced they had adopted “a neutral political stance” over the gesture.

An SFA statement read: “The squad, coaching staff and backroom members will stand up to racism ahead of the Group D matches against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.” Scotland stopped taking the knee in March after manager Steve Clarke said it had become “maybe a little bit diluted”.

Croatia’s players refused to discuss their own position yesterday but a spokesman for their football federation said: “Because this gesture does not symbolise anti-racism or the fight against discrimina­tion in the context of Croatian culture, we will not be imposing this as a mandatory measure.”

Fans who support England taking the knee were urged to “drown out boos with applause” by starting to clap it before its opponents jeered.

The move is part of plans to combat the booing by England fans.

Tony Burnett, the chief executive of Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisati­on, said: “Gareth Southgate and the England players have made their position really clear – they are taking the knee as an anti-discrimina­tion gesture, it is in no way linked to any political organisati­on. All of us England fans, myself included, want to see England succeed in the Euros,

so we are asking for fans at the games to drown out boos with applause and show the players we are behind them.”

Kevin Miles, his Football Supporters’ Associatio­n counterpar­t, said: “Fans who turn up to support the England team and make their first act after the referee’s whistle booing their own team’s stance against racism should be ashamed of themselves. We stand with those supporters who have reacted positively by applauding the players taking part in their demonstrat­ion.”

Kunal Sapat, founder of England fan group Block 109, said: “Our aim at Block 109 is to show support to the England team on and off the pitch. We are against all forms of discrimina­tion and with this being the most important tournament on home soil for a generation and our best chance to win a trophy, we urge fans to show positive support to our players taking the knee in the fight against racism.”

In rugby union, Eddie Jones urged fans at Twickenham not to jeer England’s players if some continued to take a knee during their fixtures against the United States and Canada next month.

“I know the team for the previous Six Nations had a difficult conversati­on because there are guys with all sorts of different views and their ability to respect what they think is right was important,” he said.

“In terms of the fan, we don’t control how they behave. I would like the fans to respect the players’ decision. That’s how I would like it to be. Whether it will be, I am not sure.”

The latest calls for the gesture to be respected followed the publicatio­n of the biggest poll of football supporters over the issue.

A YouGov survey of 4,500 fans carried out across nine countries in March found that almost as many in the UK were not in favour of the gesture as supported it. The poll also found a huge difference in support among those from an ethnically diverse background compared to the general population.

In England, 54 per cent out of 547 fans surveyed said they were in favour, compared to 39 per cent against, while seven per cent said they did not know.

In Scotland, the respective figures were 49 per cent, 42 per cent and nine per cent from 352 supporters polled. And, in Wales, it was 53 per cent, 37 per cent and 10 per cent out of 308. However, among ethnically diverse British fans, only 12 per cent were against players taking the knee, with 78 per cent for.

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