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English football divided over whether to ‘take a knee’ before matches



English football clubs divided over whether to take a knee with some fearing that gesture is in danger of losing its impact if it is to be continued indefinitely

Players have been kneeling in support of anti-racism movement since restart Several clubs feel it will lose significance if ‘taking a knee’ continues indefinitely On Saturday, in 16 of 37 matches, players did not kneel before the kick-off 

English football is divided over whether it is still relevant to ‘take a knee’ before matches.

What began during Project Restart as a unanimous gesture of support for the anti-racism movement after the shocking death of George Floyd in America in May, is now causing confusion for many players.

Several clubs have decided that it will lose significance if continued indefinitely and on Saturday in 16 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions, players did not kneel before kick-off. 

There has been a split over whether clubs should continue to take a knee before matches start

In 6 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions on Saturday players did not kneel beforehand

It went ahead in all four Premier League matches and at every game in the Championship except Norwich v Preston. But the picture was less clear in League One and League Two where the majority did not take a knee. Out of 23 matches in the lower two leagues players did not take the knee in 15 of them.

QPR have reiterated their commitment to fighting racism and social injustice after their players and Coventry’s declined to take the knee, as has been habitual in televised games, before Friday night’s Championship clash on Sky TV.

Manager Mark Warburton and chief executive Lee Hoos have both spoken in support of player protests to highlight racial inequality.

But they insist that taking the knee is an issue for players and that the club should be judged their record rather than the gesture itself. Both teams agreed with the referee that they weren’t going to take the knee before the game and Warburton said: ‘We have absolute respect for such an important cause and all of our players, to a man and staff, followed the lead [last season] and took the knee. 

‘Some teams have been saying at the end of lockdown, that we’ve done it now. So we’re saying there should be guidance from the EFL.

Mark Warburton defended his QPR team who were one of several teams that did not kneel

‘When I came off the pitch last night and was made aware that some were saying QPR’s behaviour might have been inappropriate, I was appalled.

‘We had the first game against Nottingham Forest last week and both clubs said: ‘We’ve done it. We’re full of respect for the cause but we don’t want it to become a token gesture.’ Our players are saying: ‘Are we doing it every game?’

‘As in the clap for carers, it tends to lose its power over time. But when clap for carers stopped, there’s no less respect for carers.

‘We abhor all forms of discrimination and I don’t think there’s a more-diverse club in football. It’s important that we’re seen to have BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] representation, given the work we do in our community, which is a very diverse. Any suggestion that the club has acted inappropriately should be met with a powerful response on our part.’

Hoos was adamant that the stance of the players was not an endorsement of those seeking to belittle taking the knee or the message behind Black Lives Matter. He said: ‘People who say ‘All Lives Matter’ just don’t get it and to suggest that QPR support that kind of thinking that would be perverse.’

After their match with Bournemouth on Saturday, Middlesbrough’s assistant Kevin Blackwell said: ‘Myself and people from Bournemouth spoke about it and we decided we would both take a knee.

‘We need guidance from the Football League about this. There’s a point now where we have got to decide ‘is this relevant? Are people getting the meaning across?’ I would like to see people now do things about it rather than sit down and talk about it. We need actions taken for the right reasons.’

Sheffield Wednesday and Watford took the knee at Hillsborough and Owls boss Garry Monk said: ‘We want to keep awareness of it in the spotlight and not let it fade away.’ Brentford’s Thomas Frank added: ‘I didn’t know some teams didn’t do it, I think it’s a good cause and we all should support it.’

Sanjay Bhandari, the chairman of Kick It Out, insisted that they wanted action rather than a debate about gestures.

‘We encourage the players to continue to protest in whatever form they feel comfortable and to do so free of the risk of sanction, whether that protest is taking a knee, wearing a badge or any other form,’ he said.

‘The form of protest and who protests is not the issue and should not detract from the real issue. The real issue is meaningful action to create sustainable change. We need to focus on the targets for greater representation in football leadership and coaching; and on mobilising everyone to stand against the rise in hate, especially online.’

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