Boris Johnson has refused to condemn England fans booing players who choose to take the knee as Downing Street urged the public to “get behind” the team ahead of Euro 2020.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister supports individuals’ rights to protest.”

Mr Johnson “fully respects the right of people in this country to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices”.

Asked whether the Prime Minister was refusing to criticise supporters who boo the gesture, the spokesman said: “No… the Prime Minister is supporting the England football team and wants them to succeed and he wants the whole country to get behind them in that endeavour in this tournament.”

Asked whether Boris Johnson believed that taking a knee showed support for the political aims of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister’s spoken on the record on this issue before.

“On taking the knee, specifically, the Prime Minister is more focused on action rather than gestures.

“We have taken action with things like the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities and that’s what he’s focused on delivering.

“But… he fully respects the right of those who do choose to peacefully protest to make their feelings known.”

He added: “I would want all England fans to be respectful in any football match and, as I have said, he respects the right of those who want to peacefully protest in this way.”

Gareth Southgate expected his England players to be jeered for taking the knee ahead of their win over Romania but again insisted they will continue to make the gesture going forward.

The Three Lions boss had asked for supporters not to boo the stance on the eve of this final Euro 2020 warm-up game at the Riverside Stadium but, as they did here on Wednesday night, a minority ignored Southgate’s pleas.

Southgate and his players agreed on the decision to continue to take the knee as a gesture against racism and inequality despite the recent incidents, and he explained after the win that the stance will not change.

“I think I sadly sort of expected what happened to happen,” he said.

“We’ve accepted that, as a group. It isn’t going to stop what we are doing and what we believe. It certainly isn’t going to stop my support for our players and our staff.

“That’s it, we are going to have to live with that. We’ve said what we are going to say now.

“You are right to ask the question today but moving forward, it is pointless me going into any further detail on that.”

Rashford, who captained England for the first time, echoed his manager’s sentiments, telling ITV: “It is something we cannot control.

“For us it is the right thing to do so we are going to continue to do it.”