Richard Masters: Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t set precedent for future political activism in Premier League

Dan Kilpatrick
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has insisted the Black Lives Matter movement does not set a precedent for future political activism in the top-flight, insisting the campaign is a "moral cause" and "unique".

Fielding questions from the DCMS Select Committee, Masters said political activism remained a "no" in the Premier League but insisted players using their platforms "for social good...was welcomed". Julie Elliott MP described his position as "alarming" and said he was "opening a can of worms".

The Premier League has previous sanctioned players and coaches for displaying political messages, including Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola who was sanctioned for wearing a ribbon in support of Catalan independence.

All top-flight players wore 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of their shirts for the first round of fixtures and have taken a knee before every match, with the Football Association saying there will not sanction individuals who use their platforms to protest racial inequality.

Pushed by MPs on whether the League's stance set a precedent for future activism, Masters said: "[Players] wanted to make those two statements [in support of the NHS and Black Lives Matter] and we listened and are happy to support them during this particular period.

"I don’t think it sets any particular precedent, I think it’s perfectly possible to support Black Lives Matter without being seen to be supporting any political organisation. We’re happy to support the players, we think it’s the right moment to do it and for the first time I feel that players, managers, league and clubs are on the same page on the issue of discrimination and that feels like a positive step.

"We’re drawing a clear distinction between a moral cause and a political movement. Whilst there may be some difficulty sometimes in dividing the two, our position is clear. Politics no, moral causes yes – when agreed. We’re living in special times at the moment."

Pushed on whether a player would be sanctioned for supporting Scottish independence, for example, Masters added: "This is not an individual player with an individual cause. It is a firm position from all players. They come from culturally diverse backgrounds and on this occasion we’ve decided to support them. That doesn’t mean whether players on an individual basis want to do something that the Premier League and clubs will be duty bound or willing to support them. But on this occasion we’ve decided to do that. If you do something without that position, you are breaching of the rules you can expect to be fined."

Photo: Getty Images for Premier League

Meanwhile, Masters revealed he would like the Premier League to take over the running of the Women's Super League in future.

The top-flight held talks with the FA about a handover last year, with Premier League-affiliated clubs currently making up 13 of the 22 sides in the women's top two divisions.

The FA yesterday announced a series of extensive cuts, including 82 redundancies, to help cover expected losses of around £300million due to the pandemic , with chief executive Mark Bullingham revealing that the governing body could no longer "afford to do all the things that we did before".

It is though the budget for the WSL and wider women's game will be ring-fenced and Masters revealed the Premier League has given £1m of funding to women's football.

He said: "In the last year we’ve had lots of dialogue with the FA and our own clubs about the PL in some point in the future assuming responsibility for the professional game. We decided collectively, that in the Premier League and the FA together and the WSL and Women’s Championship boards, that now wasn’t the right time. But we will return to the topic at some point in the future.

"We obviously want the women’s game to be successful. That’s why are helping the and why we have engaged in discussions with the FA about assuming responsibility for it. From a personal perspective, it’s something I’d like to do in future. For this organisation not just to be responsible for the top of the pyramid of the men’s game, but also the women’s game. I think those two things would work hand-in-hand very well and to inspire a young generation of female footballers to get involved in the game at grassroots level."

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