Kick It Out asks fans who booed players taking a knee in Middlesbrough to show support

Players from England and Austria took a knee ahead of their match in Middlesbrough last night. Credit: PA Images

Kick It Out has urged England fans who booed when players took a knee ahead of Wednesday's friendly win over Austria to unite and support the fight against racism.

After renditions of 'Football's Coming Home' and the national anthems, there were audible jeers as the players took the knee at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium - the first time an England side have made the anti-racism gesture in front of a home crowd.

It was soon drowned out by cheers among the near-7,000 crowd but England will hope the immediate reaction does not follow the team throughout the upcoming European Championships.

Troy Townsend, head of player engagement at Kick It Out - a charity which focusses on equality and inclusion in English football - said : "Taking a knee was a gesture chosen by the players as a stance for greater racial equality in football.

"It is important to reiterate they have said explicitly that it was not intended to be connected to any specific political movement. All the players and staff who wear the Three Lions shirt with pride share a collective voice in the fight against racism."

The initial jeers on Wednesday night were overtaken by a groundswell of support and, with other stadiums across England witnessing similar responses since the return of fans, England boss Gareth Southgate said after the game that he felt the message behind taking the knee before kick-off is being lost and he wants to see the meaning behind it reaffirmed.

He added: "I think the majority of people understand it, some people aren't quite understanding the message and I suppose we are seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment."