England prepared to break protocol and walk off pitch if racially abused, says Tammy Abraham

Mark Critchley
The Independent
England's Raheem Sterling responds to racist abuse in win over Montenegro: AFP/Getty Images
England's Raheem Sterling responds to racist abuse in win over Montenegro: AFP/Getty Images

Tammy Abraham has said that England’s players are prepared to walk off the pitch in their forthcoming European Championship qualifiers if subjected to racial abuse, regardless of Uefa’s three-step protocol.

Ahead of Euro 2020 qualifying trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, the squad held a meeting on Monday where players – including captain Harry Kane – discussed the possibility of unilaterally walking off if abuse occurs and they do not feel their complaints are being supported by the match officials and the process.

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Uefa ask for a three-step procedure to be followed in instances where players are racially abused. The first step involves the referee bringing play to a halt and making an announcement over the PA system, insisting that the behaviour stop immediately.

If the abuse continues once the game has restarted, the referee will suspend the match for a “reasonable period of time” and both teams will return to the dressing rooms. The third and final step sees the referee abandon the match entirely.

It is understood that England players will attempt to follow the Uefa protocol in the event of any abuse but, as Abraham confirmed, the players are ready to walk off of their own accord if they feel it is the right thing to do.

“We’ve touched base on how to deal with the situation,” Abraham said. “Harry Kane even said that if it happens and we’re not happy with it, we speak to player and if he’s not happy, we all come off the pitch together. It’s a team thing. Don’t isolate one person, we’re a whole team. If it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

“We did speak about that. Harry Kane did ask the question about instead of going through the three steps, if we decide that we want to stop the game and we want to stop the game – no matter what the score is – if we’re not happy with it, as a team we’ll decide whether or not to stay on the pitch.

“I do [think it could happen]. Watching the gaffer speaking yesterday, he was quite keen on putting a stop to it. No one wants it in football. It’s not just affecting one person, it’s affecting the team. It’s a team decision if we decide in the end that we don’t want to play this game anymore because of what’s going on, we’ll come off as a team.”

England striker Tammy Abraham (Getty Images)
England striker Tammy Abraham (Getty Images)

Abraham added: “I think if that happens and we do decide to leave the field, obviously it’s serious. We’d just let the FA or whoever deal with whatever’s next, the scores or what happens with the points. At the time, it’s about making sure we’re a team. We don’t stand for it and we want the world to see that, that we don’t stand for the silly abuse.”

The game in Sofia next Monday will be played in front of a reduced crowd after Bulgaria were found guilty of racist behaviour during their June qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Kosovo, while several black England players were abused during a 5-1 win over Montenegro in Podgorica earlier this year.

Abraham suggested that Uefa’s three-step protocol was not strong enough and that “one strike” should be enough, although he reiterated that England will attempt to follow the process and only “make a decision” if required.

“For me personally, I think it’s just one strike because it gives people excuses,” Abraham said. “One time, twice, three times – it gives silly people excuses. Like we were all saying yesterday, if it happens and let’s say there’s a warning or whatever in the stadium, then it happens again, we have to make a decision as a team and with the staff.”

Abraham was subjected to racist abuse online in August after missing a decisive penalty in Chelsea’s Super Cup defeat to Liverpool. “I think I dealt with it in the best way possible,” the Premier League’s joint top scorer said.

“I just stayed away from Twitter and all social media, I just spent time with my team-mates and my family. Everyone saw it, everyone was aware of what was happening. Like I said, I spoke many times about it. It’s not acceptable.

“It’s not an excuse for people to hide behind computers and say whatever they want to say. But whoever doesn’t have my personality might be affected more. Like I said, I think I dealt with it the best way. I stayed away, ignored it and just let the football do the talking.”

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