There were renewed calls from MPs for football to sever ties with the Black Lives Matter movement on Wednesday night after an application to form a political party was made in its name.
The chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee, Julian Knight, and committee colleague Steve Brine both questioned the sport’s on-going support of the movement following the publication by the Electoral Commission of a notice of the application to register a UK-wide political party under the name Black Lives Matter.
The commission has already approved the registration of one BLM-inspired political operation after The Taking The Initiative Party (TTIP) was launched this summer by BLM UK activist Sasha Johnson, who calls herself “Oxford’s Black Panther”.
BLM UK has denied being behind the new party, which could nevertheless field candidates in next year’s local elections, compounding concerns MPs already had about support for the movement not being deemed a breach of football’s rules on political slogans.
Knight told the Telegraph Sport: “This must call into question the long-term endorsement of the Premier League politically.”
Brine, who this summer challenged Premier League chief executive Richard Masters over the matter, added: “I rest my case. This is, and very clearly always was, political.”
Football has sought to distance itself from BLM following a row over the campaign’s alleged far-left ideology, including its divisive criticism of Israel and its promotion of policies such as defunding the police and ending capitalism – one of the leaders of the movement’s UK arm has also argued in favour of rioting.
The BLM logo that appeared on players’ shirts when the Premier League resumed following the coronavirus crisis was replaced at the start of this season with the slogan No Room For Racism, the name of the world’s richest league’s own anti-racism campaign.
But footballers in England have continued to take the knee – a symbol that has become synonymous with BLM – while BLM banners still adorn the stands at some stadiums during behind-closed-doors matches. European football is allowing individual clubs to make decisions over whether to take the knee, with Manchester City's players doing so ahead of their game with Marseille while their opponents stood in a line around the centre circle.
Neither the Football Association nor Premier League had plans to review their positions on BLM following the Electoral Commission’s revelation.
The FA said this summer: “We’re proud to support the Black Lives Matter message in order to show solidarity to the black community and to highlight inequality and injustice experienced by this community.
“As an apolitical organisation and, while we are pleased to offer our solidarity in promoting this important message, we do not endorse any political organisation or movement, nor support any group that calls for violence or condones illegal activity.
“We’ll continue to stand firm against all types of discrimination. Just as we specifically promote campaigns like Rainbow Laces to support the LGBTQ community or Level Playing Field’s week of action to highlight discrimination against disabled people, we are supporting Black Lives Matter.”