Skinny Guardian

7 December 2020, 21:27 (UTC), 742 words. Ed Aarons and Michael Butler.

Millwall and QPR players to join arms 'in fight against discrimination'

Millwall have outlined a series of anti-discrimination measures and said the club’s players will also stand arm-in-arm with their opposition on Tuesday, Queens Park Rangers, “in a show of solidarity for football’s fight against discrimination”.

The moves come after some Millwall fans were heard booing before the 1-0 defeat by Derby at the Den on Saturday, when players from both sides took a knee in the fight against racism. The Football Association is investigating the incident, alongside that which took place at Colchester on the same day.

Millwall released a statement on Monday evening asserting the decision to stand arm-in-arm with QPR “will help to unify people throughout society in the battle to root out all forms of discrimination”.

The club will also present a banner to support the fight against racism – a move that has drawn support from Kick It Out, Show Racism The Red Card, the PFA, the FA and the EFL – as well as replace their shirt sponsor with Kick It Out.

“Millwall have a zero-tolerance policy against racial and all other forms of discrimination and want to again make clear to anybody who holds such views that you are not welcome at this club,” read the statement.

“Millwall’s stance, as always, is that anybody found guilty of racial abuse is banned for life.

“Moving forward, the club and its community trust have started the first ever audit of board members, staff, volunteers and participants as part of an ongoing commitment towards equality, diversity and inclusion in all areas of operations.”

QPR’s decision to join Millwall was implemented after discussions between the chief executive, Les Hoos, the manager Mark Warburton, the director of football Les Ferdinand – the only black director of football in the senior English game – and the first-team squad.

“We have always been at the forefront of encouraging equality and diversity while tackling discrimination in all its forms,” said Hoos. “Our initial approach to this particular situation was for all our players to take the knee in a show of solidarity. However, it was agreed standing shoulder to shoulder with our opposition players would be a more powerful response. On top of this, some of our players wish to take the knee and we fully support this action.”

QPR previously had a policy of their players not taking a knee after Ferdinand said in September that the gesture had become “little more than good PR”. But after events at The Dell, Warburton revealed his players’ request to reverse the decision for their trip to south-east London had been granted.

“In light of certain events, we’ll stand solidly behind the cause and our players will take a knee,” Warburton said. “Tomorrow night we will show solidarity because we will not tolerate any form of discrimination. It’s the right thing to do, everyone can see that. The players have come to me and told me their thoughts and I absolutely agree with them.”

The Colchester chairman and owner, Robbie Cowling, has told supporters who want to boo players taking a knee that they are not welcome at the club and offered to refund their season tickets. The League Two side’s win against Grimsby was overshadowed by a number of fans booing both sets of players during the gesture before kick-off.

“It is undeniable that black and other ethnic minority people are still the victims of racism, and the black footballers and staff at Colchester United feel that they are in a position of privilege that has been fought for through the blood and sweat of their ancestors. A position that in 2020 the average black person is still not afforded,” Cowling said in a statement. “Those taking the knee, and supporting the taking of the knee, not only show their willingness to support the drive to eradicate racial oppression but force it to be a talking point even when it’s uncomfortable.

“Maybe those that booed on Saturday might now understand what this gesture means to our club and will at the very least remain silent during future games whilst the players continue to take the knee before each kick-off. Alternatively, they should just stay away from our club.

In a statement released on Monday afternoon, the FA confirmed “investigations are under way into crowd-related incidents at both The Den and JobServe Community Stadium on Saturday. Observations have been sought from all of the relevant parties and they will have until Thursday to provide their respective responses.”