Kick It Out's Troy Townsend says some England fans not interested in what players want following boos over taking a knee

England and Austria's players took a knee before kick-off in the Euro 2020 warm-up match on Wednesday but the move was greeted with boos from a section of home supporters at the Riverside Stadium; Townsend: "For as long as there isn't equality in our sport… it should continue"

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Kick It Out head of development Troy Townsend says it was 'very disappointing' to hear England fans booing the players taking a knee before their Euro 2020 warm-up win over Austria at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium

Kick It Out's head of development Troy Townsend has condemned the supporters who booed when players took a knee prior to England's friendly against Austria and is adamant that the gesture should be continued next season.

A near-7,000 crowd attended the Riverside Stadium for the Three Lions' warm-up clash ahead of the European Championships but a minority of supporters booed and as players knelt ahead of the game, however, the jeers were quickly drowned out by cheering and clapping from other home fans.

Gareth Southgate conveyed his disappointment after the gesture, which players have performed before matches since Project Restart last year, was greeted with disapproval from a number of supporters, and the England boss said the move is being misunderstood by some fans as a "political stand" rather than a protest over racial discrimination.

Jack Grealish also addressed the incident after the game, saying: "It's a thing we don't want in football in general and especially in our games", while goalscorer Bukayo Saka said he could not understand why some fans booed.

Townsend, a senior figure in football's largest anti-racism organisation, criticised the fans who voiced their opposition towards the powerful anti-racism message and said that it represents a lack of appreciation for the intentions of England's players who want to demonstrate their support of the fight against racism in sport and in society.

He told Sky Sports News: "It clearly shows there are some fans who are not interested in what the players want or the awareness that they are trying to bring to an audience.

"We're just on our way to a tournament that we believe that we can win. The expectation is going to be high, and all those fans that were booing last night will want us to win it as well.

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"They are going to be celebrating Black players, they would have celebrated the goal from Bukayo Saka last night. So what are they saying, it's okay as long as it's on our terms? It's okay as long as it's what we tell you to do, not what you believe you should be doing?

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Gareth Southgate has criticised a minority of supporters who booed while players took a knee prior to kick-off in England's friendly match against Austria

"The players have a strong and powerful message that they want to deliver not just in the game but across society and they will continue to do that for as long as possible."

Many teams and players in domestic and international professional football around the world have performed the anti-racism signal ahead of matches during the 2020/21 campaign.

Townsend thinks the decision for a unified approach from football's governing bodies, clubs and players in this country on taking a knee constituted a watershed moment and he wishes to see players continue with it for as long as they want to.

Bukayo Saka
Image: Bukayo Saka said he could not work out why some fans booed when England's players took a knee before their game with Austria

He said: "The gesture remains powerful for me, it remains powerful for our organisation and the question is not really answered by me, it is answered by those players.

"For as long as they want to continue [with it], for as long as there isn't equality in our sport and there is not fairness in our sport… it should continue, the powerful images remain as powerful to the very first day that I saw them.

"I wouldn't be an advocate of stopping it, I know there will be conversations going on and happening ahead of next season and we'll see what comes to light there but it flags up so many other issues that football will need to address and talk about in regards to those fanbases.

"There are people who believe that the taking of the knee has a different meaning to the one which has been described consistently throughout football for the past year, consistently spoken about by the players and what they are trying to achieve.

"These players are not only Black players, but they are also white players, from mixed backgrounds and different countries. They have all come together, this is the first time we have seen a powerful statement like this as a collective voice of the players."

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