Racists waiting for black players to miss - Townsend

There are "many out there waiting for a negative moment" such as a penalty miss to target England's black players, says former Kick It Out chief Troy Townsend.

England beat Switzerland 5-3 on penalties in their Euro 2024 quarter-final on Saturday, with all of their spot-kick takers either black or having black heritage.

They included Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, who had earlier scored England's equaliser in normal time.

Saka had his decisive spot-kick saved when England lost 3-2 on penalties to Italy in the European Championship final three years ago.

Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho - who are not in the England squad at Euro 2024 - were also unsuccessful from the spot, and the three players were racially abused on social media.

"I don’t think things have changed," said Townsend, who left the anti-discrimination organisation at the end of June after nearly 13 years.

"Because it is a positive tournament at the moment - for results - the fans are behind the team. At crucial moments, they will show their support.

"But I do feel there are many out there waiting for a negative moment, waiting for an English player to miss a penalty, so they can go back to their social platforms with that whole negativity around the players who were taking the penalty.

"We have seen white English players miss penalties before but they are never targeted or described by the colour of their skin. That is what makes it so unique against those black players who took the penalties on Saturday."

Cole Palmer, whose grandfather was born in St Kitts and Nevis before moving to the United Kingdom, scored England's first penalty against Switzerland before Jude Bellingham, Saka, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold also converted.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand posted a message on social media with a picture of the five after the game.

He wrote: "Where are the racists now???? Probably still celebrating!!!!"

Townsend told BBC Sport: "They are waiting. Why do I say that? Because we have the information behind it.

"People will celebrate up until the last moment but, unfortunately, when something has gone wrong, as perceived in their eyes, they will target these individuals.

"The last Euros was the biggest scenario we have seen and some of the messages I have seen that were directed at players were absolutely disgraceful."

Sancho sent Saka a message on an Instagram story following the Switzerland game in which he praised the 22-year-old for scoring his penalty.

"I'm so proud of this guy," wrote Sancho. "You did it for me and Marcus brother."

Delroy Corinaldi - executive director of Black Footballers' Partnership - said he did fear for the penalty takers if they had missed.

"You do have in the back of your mind this sad, terrible fear that if anything goes wrong that you will get that minority of people who are unfortunately very loud - especially on social media - denigrating those great young men," he told BBC Sport.

"Thankfully that didn’t happen."

Former England striker Emile Heskey remains wary of the potential for players being targeted with racial abuse if England lose or they miss a penalty.

"A leopard doesn’t change its spots," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"The true colours come out when they feel anger. But we try and keep fighting this and educate.

"We talk about education as the key but we need help with that as well. We slowly feel that we are getting to where it’s getting better but we still have a mountain to climb.”