Euro 2020: England manager Gareth Southgate says racist abuse of players is ‘unforgiveable’

While most fans had a good time and cheered the team on, others wanted to cause damage and abuse players they blamed for the loss, with police investigating racist tweets sent to several players

From Sky News

England manager Gareth Southgate in a post match press conference described the racist abuse directed at players as “unforgiveable” – as Prince William said he is “sickened” by some of the comments.

Southgate said: “It’s just not what we stand for.  We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together in people being able to relate to the national team, and the national team stands for everybody, and so that togetherness has to continue.

“We have shown the power our country has when it does come together and has that energy and positivity together.”

Asked about how frustrating the abuse was, alongside other disrespectful and offensive behaviour from a minority of supporters, Southgate said: “We can’t control that. We can only set the example that we believe we should and represent the country in the way that we feel.

It comes after Boris Johnson said those racially abusing some England players after last night’s Euro 2020 penalty shootout defeat “should be ashamed of themselves”.

The prime minister tweeted: “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.

“Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.” 

He was echoed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who said those sending offensive messages are a “disgrace” who “don’t represent us at all”.

There was widespread praise for the performance of the young England team on the pitch at Wembley on Sunday evening.

They had come within reach of winning the European Championship, only losing 3-2 to Italy in a penalty shoot-out.

But their performance was marred by the racist abuse, with three black players – Bukayo Saka, 19, Marcus Rashford, 23, and Jadon Sancho, 21 – targeted online over missing penalties in the game’s dying minutes.

Police said they were investigating “racist and offensive” messages and the Football Association added that it “strongly condemns” such behaviour.

The abuse also attracted widespread criticism from across the political spectrum, with the government promising action.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said social media companies “need to up their game”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the “vile” abuse “has no place in our country” and that she will “back the police to hold those responsible accountable”.

This morning, health minister Edward Argar told Sky News that he hoped police would take “swift” action against those responsible for the “appalling online racist abuse”.

Mr Argar added that a proposed piece of legislation that could help crack down on online racist abuse is being brought forward.

The government announced plans for a new law in May that could see social media companies fined up to 10% of turnover or £18 million ($25 million) if they fail to stamp out online abuse such as racist hate crimes.

He said: “We are bringing forward at the moment measures in our Online Harms Bill to strengthen how internet and social media platforms behave and their responsibilities to take action against this sort of behaviour.

“It would be further strengthening because, as I say, the police are already investigating, so they are already looking into possible offences committed here.”

The FA added: “We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team.

“We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.”

In a statement Facebook, who also own Instagram, said: “No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t want it on Instagram.

“We quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rule.”

The England squad received support from other football stars, who also called on leaders to do more to tackle the issue.

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A forlorn looking Gareth Southgate applauds the crowd.

Former Premier League and England manager Sam Allardyce told Sky News the responsibility lies with social media companies.

“Clearly we need to do more and it is a great shame that it clouded such a great tournament,” he said.

England World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst said his 16-year-old grandson showed him examples of the “absolutely disgusting” abuse being posted online.

He told Sky News authorities need to “nail these absolute morons”.

“It’s sad this is making the headlines… the team are magnificent,” he added.

“So much praise should be heaped on Southgate and [the team].”

The England team has been highlighting the issue of racism throughout the tournament, taking the knee before all their matches.

However some fans have booed the gesture, with critics viewing it as too political.

Former England star Gary Neville, pictured below,  told Sky News he wasn’t surprised to see the abuse, in part because leaders, including Boris Johnson, had failed to support the players over their decision to take the knee.

He said: “The fact is there is an issue in football, there is an issue in society where we feel it is acceptable to criticise players for sporting actions because of the colour of their skin.”

Labour MP David Lammy shared examples of some of the abuse he had seen sent in the players’ direction on his Twitter account.

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Each one used highly offensive, racial slurs.

Mr Lammy said: “This is why we take the knee. Praying for a better future – worthy of the values, beauty and respect exemplified by every single England player.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on social media companies to do more to hold offenders to account.

“There is absolutely no place for racism in football or anywhere else,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Those responsible for the disgusting online abuse we have seen must be held accountable – and social media companies need to act immediately to remove and prevent this hate.”

The England team was also flooded with messages of praise and support following Sunday’s match.

Boxer Nicola Adams, Good Morning Britain presenter Alex Beresford and singer Lily Allen were among the celebrities to criticise the behaviour of those who targeted the squad.

Adams said the “sickening” abuse shows “exactly why football players are taking a knee”.

Television presenter and journalist Piers Morgan, who was at Sunday’s game, said he was “pleased to hear loud applause drown out a few boos” when England’s players took the knee before kick off.

“Then our black stars get horrifically racially abused after the game,” he added. “This is why they take the knee. This is why I support them in taking the knee.”

And comedian Bill Bailey congratulated England on reaching the final.

He added: “Only a year until the World Cup, a young side full of talent, who played well on the pitch and conducted themselves with dignity off it – unlike some thuggish boneheaded fans who deserve our contempt.”

Meanwhile, dozens of fans were arrested after the game was over.

The Metropolitan Police said 49 people had been arrested for a “variety of offences” and that officers would be on hand throughout the night.

They also said that 19 officers were injured as they “confronted volatile crowds”. It gave no detail of the extent of the injuries but said the fans’ behaviour had been “wholly unacceptable”.

The Metropolitan Police Federation, the body which represents thousands of London’s police, criticised people who hurt officers.

The Federation said: “These people should be ashamed of themselves. They are not fans. They are thugs. We wish our injured colleagues well.”

Earlier in the day, fans were pictured in London’s Leicester Square throwing bottles and road cones, leaving the area littered with rubbish.

Police said some people in the capital had been “jumping off street lamps or hoardings”, something officers warned “could easily end in injury”.

And before the game started, about 100 supporters were pictured breaking through security barriers at Wembley, running into the ground as staff tried to stop them but were overwhelmed.

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