Les Ferdinand: Black people have to 'fight the system' in football

Yahoo Sport UK

Former England striker Les Ferdinand is calling for football to lead by example by breaking racial stereotypes.

The past year has seen a number of high-profile incidents of racism within the game, including Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling being abused when England travelled to Montenegro for a Euro 2020 qualifier.

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Ferdinand, who works for Queens Park Rangers, is the only black technical director in the English game, with Michael Emenalo previously holding a role at Chelsea.

Indeed, the Football Association has no senior position filled by a person of colour, which Ferdinand himself questioned while writing in The Times.

The former Tottenham and England striker insists the kind of change that has been spoken about for years must finally take place, while also revealing the toxic effects of racial stereotypes.

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“In my role I travel abroad for various meetings and sometimes the hosts have presumed that my colleague must be in charge - because he is white,” he wrote.

“I sense the awkwardness when their mistake becomes apparent and I realise that is the mindset of people in football.

“They are conditioned by what they have seen time and time again.

“When black people try to become coaches and administrators, they are having to fight the system.

“So what is my reaction? I could get angry but that will not bring change.”

Ferdinand, now 52, gave an analogy about his time on the golf course to make his point.

He added: “During my playing career I never played golf as black people and other ethnic minorities never felt welcomed to be members at clubs.

“I thought, ‘Why should I be allowed on to a golf course just because I am Les Ferdinand as opposed to any black man who enjoys the game?’

“Then someone offered me another perspective. If black people saw the likes of Ian Wright, Paul Ince and me on a course they would feel it was OK to play and more white people might accept it.”

England’s match in Montenegro was marred by accusations of racism in the crowd.

The hosts were eventually found guilty and made to play one game behind closed doors and pay a £17,000 fine.

Hardly a week later, Moise Kean was subject to abuse when Juventus played at Cagliari.

Serie A confirmed the club will not face sanctions.

"It emerged the chants in question, although certainly reprehensible, had an objectively limited relevance to race," a statement said.

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And Ferdinand believes governing bodies are letting down footballers.

He added: “If you want to solve the problem, deduct points and better still, kick the team or country out of the competition. You will eradicate the problem from stadiums real quick.

“When hooliganism was an issue, English teams were banned from Europe for five years. Supporters quickly learnt to behave and the problem was eradicated. UEFA took a harsh measure.

“But with racism the authorities do not want to take harsh measures - they choose not to understand its impact.

“The people in charge of UEFA and the FA have never been racially abused and so all they can do is show so-called empathy and pay lip service.”

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