Kick It Out boss Tony Burnett has backed the decision by Premier League players to stop kneeling before every game, but he wants the conversation around racism to continue.
Premier League captains decided that the gesture, which began in June 2020 in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, will now only be used on specific occasions.
Burnett supports the move as long as the issue of racism is kept on the agenda.
“We support the players in whatever they decide, but we want to make sure that going forward, regardless of taking a knee, that we still talk about racism, we talk about reasons why players had to take a knee, because these issues have not gone away ,” he told the PA news agency.
“When they choose to use their voice to speak out against injustice, that’s a positive message and we continue to support that, but more generally we want to make sure that we keep racism on the agenda because it hasn’t gone away and it is it doesn’t go away.
“Players have done a fantastic job in trying to highlight it over the last couple of years and we need to keep that momentum going in terms of tackling the issue.”
Burnett says racism in football is still widespread and that it is a reflection of a larger problem in society.
– The discussion is about the wider society. football is a reflection of society and I think we are in a very dangerous position when it comes to racism in society, he added.
“It is probably at the most dangerous time in my living memory and we have to do a huge amount of work to move forward. One of the first things we want to see is a wider awareness and more real education about history, and especially black history, in schools.
“That’s the discussion that the government just doesn’t want to have. So no, I don’t think enough is being done from a societal perspective, and football is a reflection of society.”
Premier League captains agreed to carry out the action ahead of this weekend’s opening round, dedicated ‘No Room For Racism’ matches in October and March, Boxing Day, the final round of the season and the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals.
They said in a joint statement: “We have decided to choose key moments to kneel during the season to mark our unity against all forms of racism, and in doing so we continue to show solidarity for a common cause.
“We remain resolutely committed to eradicating racial prejudice, and to creating an inclusive society with respect and equal opportunities for all.”
A total of £238,000 will also be donated to designated youth clubs on behalf of the captains following money raised from ‘No Room For Racism’ badges sold on club shirts last season, with the Premier League matching the £119,000 generated.
The Professional Footballers’ Association says its members did not want the gesture to become routine.
“We have always been clear that choosing whether to kneel should be a personal decision for each individual,” said CEO Maheta Molango.
“We have spoken to players about this and what we have heard is that they want to find a balance.
“They don’t want the gesture of taking a knee to become routine, so that it potentially loses its impact. However, they are also committed to using their platform and their voice to continue to bring attention to what remains an extremely important issue , not just in England, but around the world.”
Bristol City and Swansea both announced on the eve of the EFL season that they would no longer take the knee as they felt the action had been diluted.
The EFL continues to support any player who takes a knee before the match, but also supports those who have chosen not to and want to fight discrimination in other ways.