MP Tom Hunt urges England to drop taking the knee at Euro 2020

Footballers taking the knee

Players from both sides took the knee before this week's friendly international in Middlesbrough. - Credit: PA

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has urged the England football team to stop taking the knee before matches in Euro 2020 and to adopt other ways of showing their opposition to discrimination in a bid to boost national unity during the competition.

At the start of this week's friendly match with Austria in Middlesbrough, there were clear boos heard when the England team took the knee before the kick-off - although many fans also applauded the gesture. 

This was the first England match played in front of a live crowd since the start of the pandemic 15 months ago - 8,200 fans were allowed into the Riverside Stadium for the game.

Mr Hunt tweeted that he wished the England football team had followed the lead of the country's cricket team earlier in the day. They had worn t-shirts with the slogan: "cricket is a game for everyone" and stood alongside their New Zealand opponents in silence for a minute at Lord's before the match started.

The Ipswich MP has been a critic of players taking the knee in the past because it has become to be seen by many people as support for Black Lives Matter which many see as a political movement with a radical agenda.

Mr Hunt said: "I know many many footballers see taking the knee as simply showing support for each other and anti-racism, but many people see it as supporting Black Lives Matter and that is a political movement with some of its supporters calling for the defunding of the police, are anti-capitalist and are opposed to the nuclear family.

"That is why people object to it and why we heard some booing. I want the whole country to be united behind the football team like we were in 2018.

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"I think they should look at another way of showing their support for anti-discrimination like the cricketers did."

Speaking after the match, England manager Gareth Southgate said he was disappointed there had been booing while the players took the knee.

He said: "I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don't agree with. That's not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other."