The long wait is finally over

August 05, 2022 - 08:09
But one change you won’t find in any rulebook was announced this week, and that refers to the ‘taking of the knee’ by players moments before kick-off.
England players Kalvin Phillips, left, and Jack Grealish ‘take the knee’ ahead of a pre-Euro 2020 friendly against Romania. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

After what feels like an eternity, the Premier League finally gets going again later today, and we can expect some big changes this time around.

Probably the biggest noticeable difference will be the number of substitutes allowed during each game.

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp has been a big advocate of allowing five changes per match, and he seems to have gotten his way.

But it’s not quite as simple as first thought.

Teams will only be allowed to make substitutions three times during play, as well as at the beginning of the second half.

The thinking behind this makes perfect sense.

It means that the breaks in actual play won’t change compared to last season and, in theory, this should eliminate managers wasting time late on by making five individual substitutions to run down the clock.

There have also been some tweaks and clarifications made to exiting rules, like the ‘deliberate play’ for offside ruling, which if I’m honest, I’m none the wiser after reading it, and goalkeepers when facing a penalty must have one foot on, or behind the goal line.

But one change you won’t find in any rulebook was announced this week, and that refers to the ‘taking of the knee’ by players moments before kick-off.

The captains of the league's 20 clubs have agreed to use specific moments during the campaign to take the knee "to amplify the message that racism has no place in football or society".

In a collective statement, the top-flight captains said: “We have decided to select significant moments to take the knee during the season to highlight our unity against all forms of racism and in so doing we continue to show solidarity for a common cause.

'We remain resolutely committed to eradicate racial prejudice, and to bring about an inclusive society with respect and equal opportunities for all.”

I don’t for one minute want to turn this column into a discussion on the Black Lives Matter movement, but I do think the time is right to stop it at every football match.

Players will take the knee during this weekend's opening games of the season, at dedicated No Room for Racism matches in October and March, Boxing Day fixtures after the World Cup has finished, the last day of the season and the FA and EFL cup finals.

The act of taking the knee before every game was first introduced in 2020 during Project Restart as a show of solidarity following the brutal murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

The gesture has continued despite criticism that the act had political connotations.

I understand this stopping, or rather vastly reducing, the act has been a difficult decision to make and I applaud the captains of each club for what, in my mind, is a good solution.

The only slight problem I do have, is racism still exists within football. While the gestures are very much appreciated by the majority of football fans, I do fear that at some point between now and the end of the season I will unfortunately be writing about some mindless act at a football match.

But for now, let the games begin. VNS