EFL reaffirms support for players and staff members taking a knee ahead of start of new season

The Championship, League One and League Two seasons begin this weekend; EFL says any players or staff members wishing to take a knee before games will be supported by the league; EFL says taking a knee is a "simple act of protest against racism and inequality"

Derby players protest before kick-off
Image: Derby's Colin Kazim-Richards raises a fist while Jason Knight kneels ahead of kick-off

The English Football League (EFL) has pledged its support to any player or staff member who wishes to take a knee before games this season.

A statement from the EFL on Tuesday said it was "reaffirming" its backing to those who wished to take a knee, and described the gesture as a "simple act of protest against racism and inequality".

The Championship, League One and League Two seasons begin this weekend, with Bournemouth hosting West Brom on Friday night, live on Sky Sports.

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The EFL statement read: "Ahead of the weekend's opening round of league fixtures, the EFL is reaffirming its support to any player(s) and staff who wish to take the knee during the 2021/22 season.

"For over a year, players have made the personal choice to perform this simple act of protest against racism and inequality, helping shine a light on these issues in society and continue a conversation that has been heard across the world.

"The impact of football on and off the pitch is unquestionable. We know first-hand how it can change communities and societies for the better. And where players choose to take the knee to oppose discrimination, they have support from the league.

"Players have repeatedly said their protest is not about ideology or political affiliations and we ask that any player that wishes to express themselves in this way are respected."

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The EFL will also promote its 'Together Against Discrimination' message on matchdays this season.

England's Mason Mount and Declan Rice take the knee before the Euro 2020 Group D match against Croatia
Image: England players took a knee before kick-off throughout Euro 2020

It will see clubs adopt a "unified position reiterating that racism, discrimination and abuse is not welcome in our game or in our communities".

The EFL says it is making these commitments after completing the "most in-depth piece of independent research to date on anti-discrimination activity on football matchdays".

Players, clubs, fans, members of the public and other stakeholders were consulted, with greater support for those taking a knee and unified efforts across the game to tackle discrimination favoured by respondents where possible.

The EFL's chief executive Trevor Birch said: "The EFL takes the issue of tackling racism and discrimination, in all its forms, very seriously, but we must always strive to do more.

"That is why we commissioned independent research on the issue of anti-discrimination on a matchday to help inform our approach.

"We have heard the message from players who wish to take the knee loud and clear, and they have the EFL's support.

"Both within the EFL and across the wider game we are committed to working collectively as we are stronger when we all work together against discrimination.

"The message is clear: prejudice and abuse - whether in the street, in the stadium or online - has no place in society and the EFL will not accept it.

"Football is a game with many opinions. But those who do not share our opinion on removing racism and discrimination from our game are not welcome."

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