Rio Ferdinand says soccer's authorities must get ruthless on racism
Former Man Utd defender thinks punishments need to be harsher
Ferdinand's brother Anton alleged racist abuse from Chelsea captain John Terry
The 35-year-old open to role within FIFA after playing career has finished
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand’s message to soccer’s authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
The former England and Manchester United star also believes football’s world and European governing bodies should consult current players when meting out punishments.
Ferdinand, currently plying his trade for English Premier League strugglers Queens Park Rangers, thinks the game still has a long road to travel in what is proving an exhaustive and complex battle.
The 35-year-old’s brother Anton was at the center of one of the most high-profile English cases of recent times, when he accused Chelsea captain John Terry of racial abuse.
And Ferdinand is resolute in his belief that the war on discrimination is one football cannot wage alone.
“There were a lot of campaigns that were going on over the years that I was a part of and I thought ‘Yes. Football is doing a great job, especially in England,’” Ferdinand told CNN.
“And then all of a sudden (the Terry case) made me realize that it was just put under the carpet a little bit and it was still there. But it made me realize that football can’t be the tool that kind of eradicates racism.
“It’s got to be a social element to it. Schools, parenting, education has got to play a bigger role in getting rid of racism.
“There has been progress but there’s also been times where you think ‘I thought we’d got past that.’
“I think sometimes the powers that be sometimes aren’t ruthless enough in handing out punishments and that where I’d like there to be sometimes more dialogue maybe with people that are playing the game still – people of different races to be in the decision making process as well.
“So that people who are making the decisions understand that it does hurt when these type of things happen on a football pitch or a stadium or around sports.”
Ferdinand cites the incident involving his brother and ex-England captain Terry, as well as former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez’s eight-match ban for abusing Patrice Evra – then of Manchester United – as evidence that racism is still a major issue in today’s game.
Terry was found not guilty in court of abusing Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October 2011 but the Football Association later banned him for four matches and fined him £220,000 ($355,000) on the same charge. Terry later apologized for the language he used.
Ferdinand calls Terry “an idiot” in his autobiography #2sides in reference to the case and now thinks a conversation at the time might have helped heal some of the wounds.
“I do a whole chapter on the relationship between myself and John and my brother and, yes, I think that would have solved a lot of problems if there would’ve been a conversation, an apology, at the beginning,” he explained.
“I think things might have gone a bit differently, but again the powers that be made a lot of decisions that we maybe didn’t agree with at the time.
“That could’ve maybe had a different outcome to the whole situation if we were listened to. But, as I said, it’s all stuff that I’ve had to go over and talk about in the book and it’s been a bit of a healing process so to speak.”
Incidents of racism haven’t been restricted to on-field events, with chants from fans also prompting soccer’s authorities to issue sanctions.
There have been a string of incidents over recent seasons, with CSKA Moscow’s European Champions League tie with Bayern Munich on Tuesday held behind closed doors due to a racist incident in last season’s competition.
Brazilian club Gremio was banned from a cup competition in September after an opponent’s goalkeeper was racially abused during a match.
And Ferdinand thinks heftier fines would act as firm deterrent, with stadium bans dished out to repeat offenders.
“If it’s going to be money, then it’s got to be huge amounts,” he explained. “There’s vast amounts of money in the game so it should be reflected in the punishment.
“If you’re going to hand a Federation a £60,000 ($96,000) fine when that Federation’s pulling in millions a year that is not going to hurt. So it’s got to equate to what they generate I think. Or you ban them from playing in their home country.
“If you say to a country ‘Listen you’re not going to play your national games in your country now after what just happened in the stadium,’ I think the fans will start thinking a bit differently.
“And as I said that doesn’t stop racism. It just stops it in a stadium.
“So that’s why I always talk about a bigger idea on racism and a social element rather than just football but it stops it in a stadium and hopefully that can be then hopefully replicated, maybe, in society.”
Much of the spotlight has centered on Russia, hosts of the 2018 World Cup.
The country’s football association was fined after its fans directed racist abuse at a Czech Republic player during Euro 2012.
CSKA Moscow has twice been forced to play matches either behind closed doors or with part of its stadium shut due to racist incidents, one after Manchester City’s Yaya Toure was subjected to monkey chants in October 2013.
The most recent, against Bayern Munich this week, was in response to an incident during a match with Czech club Viktoria Plzen, also last season.
But Ferdinand thinks countries should be given a chance to clean up their act, with Russia being no exception.
“Yes they’ve had issues in the past but I think they should be given that opportunity to rectify that,” he said.
“There’s no bigger event on the planet than the World Cup and this is a time they can cover themselves in some glory.
“That’s down to their federation and the people that run their game to make sure that they put in place things to happen that if they do step out of line there’s going to be big punishments and as I said, that’s the only way that they can kind of rectify any mistakes they’ve made in the past.”
Ferdinand has been linked with a role within FIFA but says while he is always available to consult he is firmly focused on playing for the time being.
“No I’m not in the line for any of those positions to be honest with you,” he added.
“I’m concentrating on playing football. I’m happy playing football. If they want a conversation about various things, I’m always here and willing to be speak.
“Once I retire then things like that maybe can be approached and looked upon but right now all my efforts are in trying to help QPR stay up in the Premier League.”