Premier League protest messages will not be punished, says chief executive Richard Masters

Premier League players will escape sanction for anti-racism messages on undershirts, as chief executive Richard Masters admitted that the situation could change the views on political messages in future.

Masters effusively praised Marcus Rashford for his activism over the last few days, and the manner he forced a U-turn from government on school meal vouchers. It is within that spirit that players will also be able to express anti-racism on undershirts – although they will still be booked for removing their shirt altogether.

The first 12 games of the Premier League restart will see names on the back of shirts replaced by the message ‘Black Lives Matter’, and Masters admitted that the climate is changing perspective in the Premier League.

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“I think that’s right for the next few weeks certainly, the referees won’t be booking players for having anti-racism messages on their under garments if they choose to do so. We’ve talked to the players and other messages are going to be on there. But if they do remove their shirt then a booking will still apply.”

While Masters stressed that he didn’t see Rashford’s moves as “political”, he did admit it could create “uncomfortable precedents” for the future. The Premier League chief was specifically asked about examples like Pep Guardiola wearing a yellow ribbon for Catalan nationalism.

“I would not see what is going on as overtly political, I would see them as ethically-based values statements,” Masters said of Rashford. “So we are comfortable about listening to the players when they express opinions they feel strongly about and I don’t think they are overtly political. The messages we are trying to put out are unifying messages.

“I don’t think I have all the answers to those questions but I do think we are living in unique times so I do think what we are doing is an appropriate response to where the world finds itself today and where the Premier League and the players are with their voices on the issues of the day. Whether it creates uncomfortable precedents going forward, we will wait and see.”

Masters meanwhile said the Premier League needs to work harder as regards having more BAME coaches, but said introducing the Rooney Rule is not a topic that has been broached.

“So far we haven’t discussed it [the Rooney Rule]. It hasn’t been a topic of discussion and we have no plans to put it back on the agenda. I think there are discussions to be had but no current plans to put that back on the agenda.

“We and our clubs have a long-standing and unstinting commitment to anti-discrimination. A lot of the issues that have been raised about representation in various parts of football, we acknowledge there is more work to be done. We believe we have strong policies and programmes in place. We are talking to black participants on a more regular basis. We have our BAME participants group which is a group of current and recently-retired players and managers and that has been incredibly useful for us. What we really want to have is a series of policies and procedures in place and campaigns. But backing those campaigns up with programmes and making progress in this area and getting feedback from the players is really important so we can stand alongside them and have confidence in what football is doing. I would not rule out some joint approaches with the FA and EFL on this.

“What’s most important is that there are no barriers to entry. The pipelines for employment in coaching are free. As you know, we have some commitments in this area in relation to our ECAS scheme and making places available. We clearly need more BAME coaches and more black coaches entering the scheme at the bottom which will create a greater pool and a greater opportunity at the higher levels of the pyramid.”

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