The Football Association has chosen not to impose any disciplinary action on Millwall or Colchester after sections of their crowd booed players taking the knee.
Millwall’s Championship loss to Derby and Colchester’s win over Grimsby in League Two on December 5 were overshadowed by supporters opposing the Black Lives Matter campaign.
Despite a strong backlash, the FA has ruled against punishing either club.
It said in a statement: “The FA has conducted full and thorough investigations into the crowd-related incidents that took place at both The Den and JobServe Community Stadium on Saturday 5 December 2020.
[1/6] The FA has conducted full and thorough investigations into the crowd-related incidents that took place at both The Den and JobServe Community Stadium on Saturday 5 December 2020. pic.twitter.com/a4GJE8Hs1a
— FA Spokesperson (@FAspokesperson) December 18, 2020
“Having carefully considered these matters, including the observations from all relevant parties, we can confirm that no formal disciplinary action will be taken against the clubs concerned on this occasion.
“However, The FA would like to further clarify that anyone who chooses to take the knee will continue to receive our support as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black community.
“To be clear, we do not see taking the knee as a political symbol, and would contend that there can now be no doubt as to what the gesture means in a footballing context.
“Therefore, going forward, The FA will continue to monitor and investigate should similar crowd-related incidents occur.
“The FA continues to support all players and clubs that wish to take a stand against any form of discrimination, and will always condemn the behaviours of anyone that chooses to actively oppose these values.”
The FA’s response comes as the Professional Footballers’ Association revealed that taking the knee as an act of solidarity against racism continues to have the overwhelming support of its members.
In light of recent negative crowd reactions and some clubs exploring an alternative to players taking the knee, the PFA has been in consultation with its members on the issue.
Players overwhelmingly support continuing this act of solidarity.
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— Professional Footballers' Association (@PFA) December 18, 2020
The players’ union says it has consulted with its membership and the vast majority want to continue taking the knee. The PFA also accused the EFL of showing “a lack of leadership” over the issue.
“Players overwhelmingly support continuing this act of solidarity despite any adverse responses that may be received,” a union statement said.
“The decision to take the knee before matches was initially made by Premier League captains during Project Restart, to show solidarity with black people facing discrimination globally.
“This powerful symbol of solidarity represents the players’ commitment to anti-racism and is not an endorsement of any political position. It is a peaceful act of unity that highlights a persistent and systemic issue.”
Millwall Supporters’ Club said the booing was targeted at the political views of the Black Lives Matter organisation, and not motivated by racism.
QPR players Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel took the knee to celebrate a goal against Millwall.
Rangers’ director of football Les Ferdinand has previously spoken about how he feels the gesture has become “diluted” and is now “little more than good PR”.
Nevertheless, the PFA feels the continued support for the gesture among players provides the mandate for competitions to give it their full backing.
“While the Premier League has already committed to teams taking the knee for the duration of the season, players across the EFL have been left in a difficult position following a lack of leadership on the issue,” the PFA statement continued.
“The survey conducted by the PFA has shown overwhelming support for continuing to take a knee, and we hope this gives the EFL and the clubs involved the information needed to support the players.”
An EFL spokesman said: “Taking the knee has, quite rightly, been a player-led initiative taken in support of the anti-discrimination and anti-racism message across football and wider society.
“The league’s position, which has remained consistent throughout this period and is a position shared across the professional game, is that we will continue to respect and support the decision of individual players who wish to take this form of action as we respect players’ freedom of expression on this issue.
“By definition it has to be an individuals’ choice as to whether they wish to ‘take a knee’ before a match if it is to remain an effective stance.
“We have provided guidance to match officials and clubs to help them support players on match days and the position has remained the same since the return of EFL fixtures in June so there shouldn’t be any confusion on this matter.
“We will continue to listen to the players’ views as part of our ongoing work with football’s wider stakeholders to tackle all forms of discrimination in our game.”