Boris Johnson: Don't boo England when they take the knee before Euro 2020 games

11 June 2021, 15:47 | Updated: 11 June 2021, 15:58

Boris Johnson urged fans not to boo when England players take the knee against racism
Boris Johnson urged fans not to boo when England players take the knee against racism. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Don't boo the England team when they take the knee, Boris Johnson has urged Euro 2020 football fans.

The Prime Minister declined to condemn spectators who booed the gesture in recent matches, with players opting to continue the protest against racial injustice.

It has led England manager Gareth Southgate to intervene, penning an essay to the nation, and is seen as the latest flashpoint in the notion of an ongoing "culture war".

The PM's official spokesman said on Friday: "The Prime Minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.

"The Prime Minister wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo."

Read more: Calls for 'unity' as England players to take the knee at Euro 2020

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The delayed European tournament, for which England are among the favourites, kicks off on Friday night, with games played in stadiums across the continent. England first play on Sunday.

Several games will be held at Wembley, including the final, meaning England fans won't need to leave the country to see Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling try to claim the nation's first ever win in the competition.

It would sit alongside the solitary World Cup England holds – but they will have to overcome the likes of Croatia and their old rivals Scotland to progress in the tournament.

Scotland's players have said they will not take the knee but continue standing together against racism before games.

However, they have now announced they will join England players in taking the knee before the game with the "auld enemy", as a gesture of support to their rivals.

Southgate has criticised the section of fans who booed England players as the team took the knee in their Euro 2020 warm-up games.

He said it felt like they were being criticised and insisted the gesture is not political.

It remains to be seen in the jeers continue into England's group stage games.

Players will be desperate for support from fans as they look to live up their tag as one of the pre-tournament favourites, along with world champions France.

England's unexpectedly successful 2018 World Cup campaign saw joyous scenes throughout the country, with pints thrown in the air as the team finished fourth, their joint second best outcome in a World Cup.

After a dreadful year in which the everybody's lives changed completely, Southgate and the squad will hope they can avoid any negativity from swelling and instead recreate the feel-good atmosphere from the summer of 2018.