The football association called for unity ahead of the start of the UK Euro 2020 campaign and urged fans not to boo the team because they took their knee before the match against Croatia at Wembley this afternoon.

The dispute over the anti-racism gesture has overshadowed England’s preparations for the tournament and there are fears of further unrest when Gareth Southgate’s side open their campaign. A vocal minority of supporters whistled out ahead of the friendly against Austria and Romania in Middlesbrough, and the heated nature of the argument led the FA to urge fans to get together.

“As the team has repeated many times, they will kneel together during the tournament before their games,” said the English Football Association. “They do this to peacefully protest against discrimination, injustice and inequality. This is personally important to the players and the values ​​that the team represents together.

“This gesture of unity and the fight against inequality can be traced back to the 18th century. It’s not new, and English football has made it very clear that it doesn’t see this as aligning with any political organization or ideology. There can be no doubt about why the players take the knee and what it means in football.

“We encourage those who oppose this promotion to consider the message you are sending to the players you support. Please respect their wishes and remember that we should all be united in the fight against discrimination. Together. They will do their best for you. Please do your best for them. “

The FA, who also posted a video about the power of the unit in the stands, supports the team’s determination to keep taking the knee. Southgate said booing felt like an attack on England’s black players and Jordan Henderson, the vice-captain, believes the negative response shows that racism remains a problem in society.

The 26-strong troop are growing tired of having to defend their anti-racism stance. England players have rejected the idea that the gesture is a political act and were surprised to be booed by part of their own fans. There are fears that the dispute will affect England’s concentration as they attempt to become European champions for the first time. The debate has drawn attention even outside of the sport, with Keir Starmer accusing Boris Johnson of undermining the team with his reluctance to condemn last week’s booing.

“He did not have the courage to side with the players,” said the Labor leader. “Compare and compare him and Gareth Southgate. He didn’t have the courage to stand by the English team and he is wrong and that is a failure of the leadership. “

No. 10 moderated his view on Friday. When asked whether Johnson condemned the booing of fans, his spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has previously spoken about his desire for everyone to stand behind the national team. The Prime Minister wants everyone to stand behind the team to cheer them on – not boo. “