Most European fans back players kneeling against racism

The YouGov survey of 4,500 fans in nine countries showed support strongest in Portugal, where 79 per cent backed the gesture, followed by Italy (73 per cent), Spain (71 per cent) and Germany (60 per cent).

England's Kalvin Phillips and Jack Grealish kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before their friendly match against Romania.   -  REUTERS

A majority of football supporters around nine European nations support professional players taking a knee ahead of matches as an anti-racism gesture, according to a new survey.

The gesture began at games from the middle of last year in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, drawing widespread public support although a minority of fans say it has lost its relevance and sport should not be politicised.

The YouGov survey of 4,500 fans in nine countries showed support strongest in Portugal, where 79 per cent backed the gesture, followed by Italy (73 per cent), Spain (71 per cent) and Germany (60 per cent).

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In England, where a small section of fans booed players taking the knee at two recent international friendlies, support was at 54 per cent, followed by Wales (53 per cent), France (52 per cent), Scotland (49 per cent). The Netherlands saw the lowest support at 44 per cent.

In Britain, 78 per cent of ethnically diverse fans were happy with players making the gesture, according to the survey which was carried out between Feb. 23 and March 31.

England has vowed to continue taking the knee into the European Championship, due to start on Friday.

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By contrast, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose nation is one of the Euro 2020 hosts, said kneeling was a custom related to slavery and alien to Hungary, with pressure on athletes to follow suit a "provocation."

The YouGov survey found fewer fans were confident about the importance of taking the knee in actually tackling racism.

Portuguese fans were the most optimistic at 76 per cent, while spectators from Wales (41 per cent), England (37 per cent) and Scotland (36 per cent) came bottom of that list.

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