After Millwall supporters booed both sets of players for taking a knee during Saturday’s game against Derby, an official response from the club was only released on Sunday morning.
Although it said the club were ‘dismayed and saddened’, while also going on to highlight the hard work it does in the community, it all feels too little too late.
Following the game, statements were immediately issued by the Football Association, Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card, while manager Gary Rowett and Mahlon Romeo spoke on the subject in their post-match interviews.
Both Rowett and Romeo also touched on the enormous amount of good work the club does in the local community.
But the question has to be asked – why did this very simple statement take so long to release, despite repeated calls for one to be made?
The longer the club delayed, the greater the risk there has been in undermining the excellent community work the club is so ready to champion.
This time last year the club organised an anti-racism and discrimination conference, bringing together EFL clubs, campaigning organisations and media representatives in an attempt to create a collaborative approach to tackling both issues.
The event was well received with London Football Scene present throughout as Millwall Chief Executive Steve Kavanagh impressively declared, “we have to acknowledge the situation and take a stand if we’re going to make real change.”
The Millwall Chief Executive also went on to say that “there seems to be this reticence that it’s a difficult subject people want to shy away from.”
Saturday’s events should have acted as a litmus test to the club’s commitment to the cause.
But their delayed lack of an official response only acted to exacerbate the situation as every minute ticked further away from Saturday 3pm.
Unlike the racist incident during the FA Cup win over Everton – where the actions of a small minority were posted on social media after the game unbeknown to the club – there is no reason why Millwall should have been on the back foot this time round in dealing with this situation.
The booing from the fans was clearly audible and should not have been ignored until the following day – however awkward the club’s position may have been in supporting their players over their fans.
Sunday’s statement should have been released either at half-time or immediately after the game, reinforcing the players earlier Friday statement which explained the reason to take a knee was purely to show support in the fight against racism, discrimination and social injustice.
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During last year’s conference, Kavanagh was critical of the media’s inability to cover so many of the positive community aspects of the club, urging “the media to sit up and take note of what is going on.”
Since its inception in February 2019, London Football Scene has taken pride in championing the club’s community work and achievements as part of it’s wider football coverage.
However, as well as highlighting and promoting the hidden stories and figures, London Football Scene also believes in the responsibility to hold people and organisations to account.
Instead of showing solidarity, Millwall’s reluctance to come out and immediately make a stand has created a chasm between themselves, the media and the vast majority of their ordinary decent supporters.
A chasm so big it will take much longer to repair than it did to build up.