LONDON (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate says he empathises with the stance taken by some of his players during the Black Lives Matter protests and hopes they could signal a change in society.
Several England players, including Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, have shown their support or spoken out since the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.
Floyd's death has sparked demonstrations around the world over police treatment of ethnic minorities and raised wider question about equality in soccer.
"I haven't spoken to them since the incident last week, but in actual fact I know where they stand," Southgate, whose team experienced serious racism during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria last year, told Sky Sports.
"I've had enough conversations with them over a long period of time to recognise that they would be emotional, frustrated, angry and passionate and I have a lot of empathy with where they stand. "I've been here before, we've talked before about moments that might change society. This certainly does feel different."
Manchester City's Sterling, one of the players abused by far-right fans in Bulgaria last year, has called on British football to address a lack of representation for racial minorities in coaching positions and the soccer hierarchy.
Sport England board member Chris Grant, one of the most senior black administrators in British sport, has established a forum to shine a light on what he says are "deeply rooted" inequalities in the country's sports organisations.
"Chris Grant lectured me in a couple of courses I went on about the institutional racism that he feels exists in sporting bodies," Southgate said.
"I think all of those areas are where we have got to focus our attention, opportunities, this feeling that people feel there aren't the opportunities there, so young black people will refrain from taking qualifications or getting prepared because they feel there is a ceiling to what is possible.
"And we need their voices in those decision-making areas and we need to show people that the opportunities do exist."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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