Proposed Charter Bans Football Fans From ‘Discriminatory’ Chanting, Social Media Comments

December 7, 2020 Updated: December 7, 2020

Fans of a London football club may be asked to refrain from and to report “discriminatory behaviour” as a part of conditions of buying a ticket, according to a “Fans’ Behaviour Charter” published on Sunday.

Such behaviour “may be in the form of chanting, comments or shouting on the way to, or inside the football ground, or by making comments on social media channels,” the charter stated.

Discriminatory behaviour is defined as “anything that singles out a person or group from a particular audience, whether that’s on the grounds of disability, gender, age, sexuality, race, or religious beliefs.”

Millwall Supporters’ Club (MSC) Committee, who published the charter, urged Millwall Football Club (Millwall F.C.) to make the charter a condition of entry to the stadium and buying a ticket or membership.

Players Booed

The proposal came after some 2,000 fans of Millwall F.C. on Saturday booed players when they took a knee at the start of a game against Derby County F.C. Taking the knee is a gesture made by many celebrities, politicians, and professional sportspeople after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Millwall v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Colin Kazim-Richards of Derby County raises his right fist—a symbol of Black Lives Matter—as other players take the knee ahead of the match between Millwall and Derby County at The Den in London, on Dec. 05, 2020. (Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)

Millwall F.C. on Sunday said in a statement that it was “dismayed and saddened” by the event and it would meet with Kick It Out and other organisations “in an attempt to use Saturday’s events as a catalyst for more rapid solutions which have an impact both in the short and long-term.”

The MSC said it does not believe the booing was racist, in a statement published with the charter.

“However, at a time of heightened awareness and with the country watching, the choice of those individuals was always going to damage their club and be perceived by the media as racist.”

The MSC said its statement came after listening to “as many different views as possible”, and urged both sides to read viewpoints of the other side, some of which the statement laid out.

Millwall Player Mahlon Romeo told the South London Press that he saw the gesture as “a peaceful gesture which … was put in place to highlight, combat, and tackle any discriminatory behavior and racism in general.”

Romeo said the fans disrespected and offended him and the football club.

On the other hand, MSC said, “Anyone who believes it was a racist act, should read the views of those who booed and see they were doing it in reaction to the war memorials and statues of Churchill defaced by the BLM organisation and the extreme political views they hold, and for which ‘taking the knee’ is associated with. These same fans have never booed the Kick it Out campaigns on our pitch or the huge work of the Millwall Community Trust and its many anti-racism campaigns.”

The statement also referred to what Queens Park Rangers Football Club (QPR) had said in September to explain why QPR decided not to take a knee.

Les Ferdinand
Les Ferdinand at a match between Fulham and Reading at Craven Cottage in London, on May 13, 2017. (Harry Hubbard/Getty Images)

QPR Director of Football Les Ferdinand said he thought the gesture had run its natural course.

“The taking of the knee has reached a point of ‘good PR’ but little more than that. The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge.”

Ferdinand criticised the media for chasing soundbites rather than covering real racial problems or the efforts to solve them.

Ministers’ Reactions

Cabinet ministers were asked to comment on the event over the weekend.

Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Secretary George Eustice on Sunday told Sophie Ridge from Sky News that he thought people could make their own choices about how they reflect the issue of race and racial discrimination, which “we all take very very seriously.”

“And if people choose to express their view in a particular way that should always be respected,” Eustice said. His aide later clarified that the minister meant the kneeling, not the booing.

Eustice also said that Black Lives Matter is political.

“My personal view is that Black Lives Matter—capital B, L, and M—is actually a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.”

James Cleverly, foreign office minister for Middle East and North Africa on Monday told Kay Burley from Sky News that he thought the booing was “unacceptable, totally unnecessary.”

When asked if actions should be taken against the fans who booed, Cleverly replied that he’d be “a bit uncomfortable” with that.

As for Black Lives Matter, Cleverly said “elements of that are drifting towards the political sphere” and some people at the centre of it have said and done things that he believed to be counterproductive.

In a separate interview, he told Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain that he thought there were better ways to solve race issues than taking a knee.