FA chief executive Mark Bullingham has said he is hoping a video explaining why England are taking a knee at Euro 2020 will “galvanise” supporters.
The gesture was greeted with some jeers before England’s warm-up fixtures against Austria and Romania, but Gareth Southgate’s side remain determined to take a knee when facing Croatia in their Group D opener on Sunday.
Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Association have called on England fans to applaud their players and “drown out” the potential boos at Wembley, and Bullingham hopes the proposed video – initially going out on the governing body’s social channels – will show supporters that taking a knee is “supporting anti-discrimination” and not a “political act”.
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Bullingham told Sky Sports News: “We want to galvanise the whole country behind the team, but at the same time we do feel we need to explain why we’re taking the knee.
“It’s a video that does both of that. Get everybody excited about a home Euros, and get people to understand the context of why the players feel it’s important to show their support for an anti-discrimination act.”
On the decision from some fans to boo before kick-off against Austria and Romania, Bullingham added: “It’s hugely disappointing. We couldn’t be any clearer, our actions are not linked to a political movement. The players are not showing support for a political movement in any way. It’s an act of equality.
“They are supporting anti-discrimination. We’re not asking all of the fans to take a knee themselves, we’re asking them to respect the actions of the team and show support for that. I hope and expect they will. They should all get behind the team.
“It’s really hard to predict (the reaction), but our hope and expectation is they hear the message, it’s not a political act and understand it’s supporting anti-discrimination.”
The FA are also in talks with UEFA over showing the video on the big screens at Wembley on matchdays.
Bullingham said: “We’re not clear on that yet, that’s obviously a UEFA decision.”
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‘Even a half-full Wembley final would be brilliant’
There will be a 25 per cent capacity at Wembley on Sunday, and Bullingham is hopeful of bigger numbers in the latter stages of the tournament, with England’s national stadium set to host a last-16 match and then both the semi-finals and final.
The FA is working with the government on a possible increase for the knockout stages, with any approval hinging on coronavirus data as the recovery road map is carefully managing the return of fans to stadia.
“We’re hopeful and confident we will get bigger numbers as we go through the tournament. The government are working on that,” Bullingham said.
“The government have been very clear with us on their ambition. We know we’re starting with 22,500 – it would be great if we get to the point where we double that for the latter stages of the tournament. The more fans in the better.”
On the prospect of a sold-out Wembley for the semis and final, he added: “That would be brilliant but that’s not something necessarily we’re looking at right now. We’re looking at the point if we can even get half-full that would be fantastic.”
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