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Boris Johnson has told fans sending vile racist abuse to England players to "crawl back under the rock", after the Prime Minister was accused of stoking division during the Euros.

The PM said Gareth Southgate's team "played like heroes", despite heartbreaking defeat in the final of the tournament to Italy on penalties.

Directing comments directly at racists targeting penalty-takers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, with abuse online, Mr Johnson said "shame on you".

But he and and other top Tories have been called "arsonists complaining about a fire" over their failure to condemn fans who booed players taking the knee to protest racial injustice.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference: “To those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players I say shame on you and I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged.

“Because this entire team played like heroes and I’m sure that this is just the beginning of their achievements, and I say bring on Qatar next year, and let’s also dare to start, together with Ireland, how the United Kingdom can host the World Cup in 2030.”

Marcus Rashford
(Image: PA)

The PM was also asked by the Mirror's Dan Bloom whether he would personally take the knee, but Mr Johnson refused to answer.

He said: "I think people should feel free to show their respect and show how much they condemn racism in this country, in any way that they choose.

"I was there last night and I noted that the whole crowd was respectful, where our players took the knee, and (…) I I didn't hear a single boo myself."

Home Secretary Priti Patel Patel earlier took to Twitter to say she was "disgusted that England players who have given so much for our country this summer have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media".

But, speaking earlier, Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner hit back, saying: "Let me be clear. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary gave license to the racists who booed the England players and are now racially abusing England players.

" Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are like arsonists complaining about a fire they poured petrol on. Total hypocrites."

Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi also tweeted in response to Ms Patel, who she said had been "playing fast & loose with issues of race", saying: "Priti -we as govt, as Conservatives need to think about our role in feeding this culture in our country If we 'whistle' & the 'dog' reacts we cant be shocked if it barks and bites.

"It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division. Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations."

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Football legend Gary Neville was also among those who accused Mr Johnson's administration of a failure of leadership over the players' stance against racism, saying signals should "come from the top".

He also hit out at the Prime Minister's previous racism, including when, in article before he was PM, Mr Johnson compared Muslim women to "letterboxes".

"I'm just reading the breaking news, it says the PM condemns racist abuse of England players. Southgate and the players a few weeks ago, five days on the trot, told us they were taking the knee to promote equality and it was against racism," Mr Neville told Sky News.

"The Prime Minister said it was ok for the population of this country to boo those players who were promoting equality and fighting against racism."