Kick It Out’s head of development Troy Townsend has expressed his disappointment that Millwall and QPR players will not join together to take the knee before Tuesday night’s London derby at the Den.
A large section of Millwall fans shamed the club as they booed players who took the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before their previous match against Derby last weekend.
Townsend does not agree with Millwall and QPR’s sentiments regarding taking the knee
After lengthy discussions between Millwall and QPR representatives, as well as the relevant bodies, it was decided that both sets of players will link arms in a show of solidarity before their Championship clash.
That was not a decision which sat well with Townsend, who revealed on the talkSPORT Breakfast that the initiative was ‘challenged’ during a tense meeting on Monday afternoon.
He said: “I was in the meeting yesterday when it was announced and I’ve said all along that if your players are happy [you should take the knee].
“It was the players who were immediately affected on Saturday and the players who had to get their heads straight and play 90-plus minutes. So if your players are happy then [you should say] I’m with you.
“I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do and it was challenged yesterday, but [Millwall] have come up with something that they think will benefit all.
“I don’t think it will stop players taking the knee tonight. That’s the stage where the judgement is going to come again.
The boos that rang out at the Den on Saturday sparked anger across the footballing world
“Because if any player does take the knee, and I think some are going to, and if there’s booing again – remember this time there is supposed to be a new set of fans if things are being done properly – Millwall say they are going to take the strongest possible action.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Townsend says he was ‘saddened’ by the events which occurred at the weekend involving Millwall and Colchester, but admitted he wasn’t altogether shocked.
He added: “The events of the weekend were probably expected. You probably knew after Project Restart you had loads of different opinions on social media and when we get back into grounds they were saying this won’t be happening.
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“It’s crazy to think that with everything going on in the world that people are choosing to react in that way
“When you see incidents that happen like on Saturday it takes you back to a place we didn’t want to be.
“The power and strength of those players and what they’re trying to achieve in taking of the knee is probably one of the biggest movements for racial equality that there has been in sport.
“I keep hearing it was a small percentage… it was a large section of fans. From talking to the Millwall CEO [Steve Kavanagh], it was probably 75 per cent of those supporters who were booing and shouting other stuff.
“For me it saddens the experience of football and overshadows the good stuff going on. I’m in despair half the time when people can do things like that to be totally honest.”
QPR director of football, Les Ferdinand, said in September the message behind taking the knee had been lost after the clubs players were heavily criticised for not making the gesture ahead of a match against Coventry.
Millwall released a statement saying they were dismayed and saddened by events
“The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge,” Ferdinand said in a statement on the club website.
“Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will.”
Approximately half of QPR’s players have continued to take the knee in the months since.
Meanwhile, Kick It Out Chair Sanjay Bhandari has praised Millwall for their response to the unsavoury scenes which occured in south London over the weekend.
“We want to enable and protect players and enable them to make whatever protest they feel is appropriate, and that they do that free from the risk of sanction,” he said.
“What we don’t want to do is police how they do that, so it’s up to them what they do.
Liam Rosenior says we must do more as a society to tackle racism as Millwall fans boo players for taking the knee and insists it is a peaceful call for equality not supremacy
“I’m an advocate of taking the knee because it goes back 200 years right to Abolitionism.
“But if the players want to do something else, then they should do that.
“The club [Millwall] approached us and said we’ve got a gesture [we want to do] that the players are behind, the leadership of the club are behind, the fans are behind, and we want to make our commitment to anti-racism and anti-discrimination.
“I think as an anti-discrimination and inclusion charity it would be perverse of us to object to that.
“The objective is we want people committed to tackling discrimination and promoting inclusion – that’s what they are doing.
“So of course we are going to support something they want to do in their own way.”