Football Victoria says a referee who requested junior soccer players kneel in support of Black Lives Matter before a game last week was acting of his own volition.
The governing body for the game in Victoria released a statement on Monday after the Herald Sun revealed angry parents had complained about their kids being dragged into a political statement.
“Following a junior friendly game last Thursday, Football Victoria was made aware that referees had requested players kneel a few minutes before kick-off,” the statement read.
“This match was not officially sanctioned by Football Victoria but was arranged at the request of the clubs. Football Victoria respects the right of individuals or groups to undertake such actions, however this request was made directly by the match official without any involvement or awareness by Football Victoria.
“Any suggestion that this initiative was undertaken at the direction of Football Victoria as a publicity stunt is inaccurate. FV is investigating the matter further, as it is our expectation that clubs and players would agree in advance of the game to be a part of any action.”
The statement received a mixed reaction on FV’s Facebook page.
“(Soccer) is a sport and should not be engaging in politics,” Jacquie Bennett wrote. “It is completely inappropriate. Even more so to involve children who are possibly not fully aware of why they would be kneeling. Those officials need sacking.”
“So so wrong on all levels!” added Pauline Alev “Why involve children in political nonsense. Let them just play sport.”
But Stef Paladino said: “Well done to the match official. Teach them young that racism is not on.”
Kneeling before sporting events has become a hot topic in the wake of George Floyd’s death earlier this year.
AFL and NRL players were largely supported but did draw some criticism for adopting the pose made famous by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick when their seasons resumed recently.