Gareth Southgate: England players to decide over taking a knee before San Marino game

Gareth Southgate says England’s leadership team will discuss whether or not the team takes a knee before Thursday’s game against San Marino.

Several club sides have abandoned the pre-match gesture of taking a knee as a display of unity against racism, which has been in place since football returned under Project Restart.

Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings believes taking a knee still sends out a powerful message but Crystal Palace winger Wilfred Zaha has stopped doing so, feeling it is “degrading”.

“I’ve spoken with the leadership team about this and I’ve asked them to talk to the other players because I think it’s a good process for them to hear each other’s views,” Southgate told Sky Sports News.

“That’s part of how we educate ourselves in terms of these matters. The one thing we’re very clear on is that we will be unified in whatever we do and if there’s any doubt I think we will take the knee.

“I’m hugely respectful of everyone’s opinions on that, I think there is an impact to be had on it. I listened to Wilfred Zaha’s comments on it and totally understood his point of view that it [taking a knee] isn’t enough now.

“So, it’s complicated. The debate around taking the knee or walking off the pitch is peripheral really, the core problems are with racism and discrimination, they’re the discussions that need to happen.

“The protests put that issue on the table but we’ve got to address the much deeper issues as much as making symbolic gestures.”

Wilfried Zaha has not been taking a knee prior to Crystal Palace matches

Southgate admitted the issue of players receiving racist abuse over social media was particularly problematic, as eliminating that interaction completely would deprive footballers of a means of communicating directly with fans.

Dortmund and England midfielder Jude Bellingham became the latest player to be racially abused, in this case on Instagram, at the weekend.

“Clearly it’s unacceptable for anyone to receive the kind of abuse Jude in this instance has,” he said. “It’s a very complex situation in terms of what action the players might take because it’s a brilliant tool for interacting with fans.

“Especially at a time when we can’t interact with fans at all because stadiums are closed, to lose all contact with fans is not something, as a game, that we want.

“Equally, if that interaction is bringing that negativity into your life then nobody wants to put up with that.

“We want stricter legislation around the control of those sites but I know that’s a complex issue to police because the abuse might not necessarily just be coming from people not just in England, it can be worldwide.

“We just have to make a stand because racism is unacceptable.”

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