Manchester United legend Viv Anderson is adamant that Rio Ferdinand was wrong to go against the wishes of his manager when he refused to wear a "Kick it Out" T-shirt ahead of his team's game against Stoke City on Saturday, part of a campaign against racism in soccer.
After the 4-2 victory, Sir Alex Ferguson branded the issue "embarrassing" and said of his player, "He's let us down, so we will deal with it.”
The defender was one of several players who decided against wearing the T-shirt before their Premier League matches, including Joleon Lescott and Jason Roberts. Anderson, who in 1978 became the first black player to appear for England feels that Ferdinand could have handled the matter better, though.
"I don't agree with Rio," he told MUTV. "You can see the manager was fuming, and clearly he didn't know anything about it. He expects his senior boys to set an example. He is the manager. If he says we are all doing it together, it should be the end of the story but Rio has gone the other way. I don't see where he is coming from and I don't know what it is going to achieve."
With allegations of and punishments for racial abuse a hot topic in football, Anderson feels that it is time for the footballing authorities to get tough on the issue.
"UEFA, or whoever the governing body are, should be more stringent with the fines," Anderson said. "Some of the fines are bordering on being pathetic. The Kick it Out campaign is very good. They are doing their best to alleviate this problem, but it has to come from a higher source. Rio has made his point, but it is the higher echelons, people like [United chief executive] David Gill, who are on all these committees.
"In one instance the fine was 40,000 pounds. It is a nonsense. If it was millions the associations would soon react to it and say we don't want these people in the grounds. With CCTV we could have them out completely."
Anderson is also worried that the individual protests by players about the lack of direction and action by the Kick it Out campaign does more harm than good.
"The Kick it Out campaign has the backing of the PFA [Professional Footballers Association] and the LMA [League Managers Association] and it is through them that you make your point," Anderson said. "You have to stick together. It can't be fragmented. If it's not working, you do something about it, but we haven't got to that stage yet."
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- Viv Anderson