sport news OLIVER HOLT: Sick of taking the knee? Players sick of abuse are preparing more ...

sport news OLIVER HOLT: Sick of taking the knee? Players sick of abuse are preparing more ...
sport news OLIVER HOLT: Sick of taking the knee? Players sick of abuse are preparing more ...

There is a temptation sometimes to think that there is a line of progress in societal issues that moves steadily upwards. 

In football, we have been asserting, glibly, for many years that the racism problem in the game is vastly improved from the way it was in the late Seventies and early Eighties, when players such as Ces Podd were loudly abused from the terraces with impunity and bananas were thrown on to the pitch at John Barnes.

That case cannot be made any more. Social and cultural history is not a smooth arc. There are periods of enlightenment and there are periods when things lurch backwards. 

And we entered a phase some time ago in English football where we lurched backwards. The rancid reaction to England’s defeat by Italy in the final of the European Championship last Sunday was merely a confirmation of that. 

Events of the past week have shown English football has not progressed in the right direction

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Events of the past week have shown English football has not progressed in the right direction

The racism of the late Seventies and early Eighties is still omnipresent across the English game

The racism of the late Seventies and early Eighties is still omnipresent across the English game

No one has sought sanctuary in revisionism about the atmosphere at Wembley, before, during and after the game and nor should they. The behaviour of a loud minority of England fans was feral. It was out of control. 

It was a reminder that however much we had told ourselves England’s hooliganism problem had gone away, it hadn’t. It had been hiding but now it feels it does not have to hide any more. 

Let’s be honest: when Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed their spot-kicks, everyone knew what was coming. Rashford, Sancho and Saka knew what was coming, too. 

Everyone knew they would be racially abused on social media. It is not an exception any more. It has not been an exception for some time. It is the norm. When anger and disillusion and impotence want to raise their voice in football now, their default mechanism is racist abuse.

Vile racist abuse directed at Marcus Rashford (left), Jadon Sancho (second left) and Bukayo Saka (right) has confirmed that we have lurched backwards in our fight for equality

Vile racist abuse directed at Marcus Rashford (left), Jadon Sancho (second left) and Bukayo Saka (right) has confirmed that we have lurched backwards in our fight for equality

In that context, it seems especially strange that so many people are still questioning the worth and the legitimacy of footballers taking the knee before games. 

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If ever a set of circumstances legitimised the actions of the England players during the Euros, it was the circumstances that unfolded last week in the wake of defeat.

Some players are anticipating that in the next few weeks the Premier League will attempt to exert gentle pressure on them to abandon the practice before the start of the new season. 

They think the Premier League are probably bored of it now and they think that, even though they would never admit it, broadcasters are probably bored of it, too.

Taking the knee is not good TV. Not really. It is a reminder that there is something wrong. It is a nagging acknowledgment of something you would rather just went away so you could forget about it. People are bored of it now; that’s what we keep hearing. 

There is also concern among stars that the powers that be will try to prevent players kneeling

There is also concern among stars that the powers that be will try to prevent players kneeling

You’ve made your point, they say, it’s time to move on. But I spoke to one captain of a Premier League club last week who made this point: how, he asked, could he go to the players at his club and tell them that everybody would really rather they went back to normal and stopped taking the knee when the 2021-22 season begins? How could he ask them to do that when nothing has been achieved?

If players stop taking the knee now, it will be an admission of defeat. Because since they started doing it, at the Aston Villa-Sheffield United match in June last year, nothing has changed with regard to racism in

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