Richard Masters insists support of Black Lives Matter movement ‘does not set any particular precedent’ for activism in the Premier League as top-flight says ‘we do not endorse any political organisation or movement’

  • Premier League has thrown its weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement 
  • Clubs and players have also shown their support, taking a knee before matches
  • Players’ shirts bore the slogan in place of their names in the first round of games
  • Premier League chief executive Richard Masters was quizzed about movement 
  • He was asked whether the campaign would open door to other forms of activism

The Premier League’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement ‘does not set any particular precedent’, according to its chief executive Richard Masters, who warned players and managers will still face punishment for making unapproved political gestures.

The competition, its clubs and players have thrown their weight behind the cause, which seeks equality for black people across the globe.

BLM demonstrations have taken place in cities around the world following the death in police custody of George Floyd in the United States in May.

Premier League chief Richard Masters was asked about the Black Lives Matter movement

 Premier League chief Richard Masters was asked about the Black Lives Matter movement

Premier League players’ shirts bore the slogan in place of their names in the first round of top-flight matches after the competition restarted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Players and staff also showed their support for the cause by taking the knee before kick-off.

Masters was asked about whether the campaign would legitimately open the door to other forms of activism in the future, with past gestures such as Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s wearing of a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan independence having been met with a fine.

Speaking to MPs at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee evidence session, he said: ‘We are drawing a clear distinction between a moral cause and a political movement or agenda.

‘Whilst there might be difficulties sometimes dividing the two, our position is clear: politics no, moral causes yes, when agreed. As I said we’re living in special times at the moment.

Players have taken the knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Players have taken the knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Players donned 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of their playing shirts when season restarted

Players donned ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of their playing shirts when season restarted

‘On this occasion we have decided to support (the players). That doesn’t mean to say whenever players on an individual or collective basis want to do something that the Premier League and clubs will be duty-bound or willing to support it.’

He added: ‘I don’t think it sets any particular precedent and, going back to the point about political messaging, I think it might become slightly torturous, but it might be possible to support Black Lives Matter, the sentiment, without being seen to be supporting any political organisation.

‘We are an apolitical organisation, we don’t support political organisations. I think we are happy to support the players, we think it’s the right moment to do it, and for the first time I feel players, managers, league and clubs are on the same page on the issue of discrimination, and that feels to me like a positive step.’

Asked whether that meant fines would still be issued for unapproved political gestures, he added: ‘Yes, if you do something without permission you are breaching the regulations, so you can expect to be punished or fined.’

Masters said that any such campaigns would have a ‘very high bar’ to reach in order to be officially approved by the league and its clubs.

Pep Guardiola previously wore a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan independence

Pep Guardiola previously wore a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan independence

‘I wouldn’t say it was a complete one-off, but obviously we are in extraordinary, unique circumstances,’ he added.

‘We are running a football competition, we are not a campaigning body, if players did want to come forward we would listen to them but there has obviously got to be a very high bar and unique circumstances in place.

‘I’m not anticipating that there will be player-led causes on a quarterly basis going forward.’

The Premier League later released a statement saying it did ‘not endorse any political organisation or movement, nor support any group that calls for violence or condones illegal activity’.

It added: ‘We are aware of the risk posed by groups that seek to hijack popular causes and campaigns to promote their own political views. These actions are entirely unwelcome and are rejected by the Premier League and all other professional football bodies, and they underline the importance of our sport coming together to declare a very clear position against prejudice.’

PREMIER LEAGUE’S STATEMENT 

The Premier League stands alongside players, clubs, The FA, EFL, PFA, LMA, PGMOL and all those who have come together in recent weeks to reject racism and to show support for the message that black lives matter. These three words have become an expression of unity for people from all communities who believe it is unacceptable to treat black people differently to anyone else.

In an unprecedented move, Premier League players from all 20 clubs united in solidarity with this message and the Premier League supported their request to replace their names on the back of playing shirts with ‘Black Lives Matter’.

The Premier League offered this backing as we wholly agree with the players’ single objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists. And we are unequivocal in the belief that there is no room for racism in our competition, football as a whole, or the wider community. Together, all professional football bodies and the players and managers recognise the importance of the message that black lives matter. However, we do not endorse any political organisation or movement, nor support any group that calls for violence or condones illegal activity.

We are aware of the risk posed by groups that seek to hijack popular causes and campaigns to promote their own political views. These actions are entirely unwelcome and are rejected by the Premier League and all other professional football bodies, and they underline the importance of our sport coming together to declare a very clear position against prejudice. We want our message to be a positive one that recognises football has the power to bring people together.

As the players have made clear, we will all continue to work to promote equality of opportunity – regardless of colour or creed – and celebrate the advantages of diversity wherever we can.

The Premier League believes there is no room for racism or any form of discrimination, anywhere #NoRoomforRacism.

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