Ferguson’s Ferdinand folly

There was a period, for some considerable time in fact, that United Rant carried a ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ graphic on the site’s front page. In the intervening years both Rant, and Kick it Out (KIO) have undergone brand redesign. But if the graphic was lost by accident, then the spotlight placed on the organisation by Rio Ferdinand and others this weekend is anything but happenstance.

Ferdinand’s decision to refuse KIO’s ‘one game. one community’ t-shirt during Manchester United’s warm-up ahead of Saturday’s fixture with Stoke City brought Sir Alex Ferguson’s considerable ire. The organisation had asked, via the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), that all players wear the shirt this weekend, or next, as part of an annual week of action.

Ferdinand’s refusal is a pointed, though, with the 33-year-old defender reportedly angry at KIO’s limp response to John Terry’s four-match ban for racially abusing brother Anton.

More than provoking one Scotsman’s anger, Ferdinand’s choice has once again raised the debate not only about racism in the English game, but how to deal with it. Terry’s ban is widely thought to be lenient given the crime’s severity, with the Londoner found to have racially abused the younger Ferdinand in calling the defender a “f*cking black c*nt”.

Moreover, KIO’s response has been so tepid that Ferdinand and other black players who refused to wear the ‘one game’ t-shirt this weekend now feel the organisation’s position is fatally compromised. After all, KIO’s refusal to condemn the leniency shown to Terry, who continued to play for England throughout the 11-month saga, comes within the context of the group’s funding – more than £330,000 of a £450,000 annual budget is provided by the FA and Premier League.

The anger may well be better directed at the perpetrators of racism, but there is no doubt that the Ferdinand brothers, Joleon Lescot, Reading striker Jason Roberts, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, Djibril Cisse, Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar, Junior Hoilett and others feel let down by KIO in recent months. It is an organisation unprepared to bite the hand that feeds it.

Yet, there are those ready to speak up, including Roberts who recently Tweeted that people expecting black players to “‘to put up with it’” will find “thosedays are gone. We DEMAND to be treated with respect, we are not asking.”

Ferguson is having none of it though, with the Scot promising gathered media last Friday that his players would wear the KIO shirt – presumably before checking with his squad. In that Ferguson believes that Ferdinand’s snub is as much directed at the 70-year-old United manager as it is for KIO.

No surprise then that Ferguson’s unilateral promise was followed up with an outburst of genuine anger at Ferdinand on Saturday evening, and an implicit threat towards the central defender.

“He will be dealt with, no doubt about that,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“I’m disappointed with Rio for not wearing the t-shirt. It’s an embarrassment for me. I’m very disappointed because I said in the press conference the players would be wearing it. We’re all wearing the badges and he goes and lets us down. But we’ll deal with it, don’t worry.”

Indeed, the Sun reported on Sunday that Ferguson will fine his player £220,000 – two week’s wages – for the protest. The coincidence in Terry paying the very same amount in fines for his racial slur is unpleasant. Whether United can impose the fine under the terms of Ferdinand’s contract is one question; why Ferdinand, who is out of contract in June 2013, would choose to stay at Old Trafford in those circumstances, is another.

In any case, one suspects Ferguson’s real anger is not in the protest per se, but in a perceived defiance.

Yet, Ferdinand has received support, both from PFA Chair Clarke Carlisle, and Piara Powar, director of European anti-racism body Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE).

“We will make sure Rio Ferdinand’s rights as a human being, never mind as a footballer, aren’t undermined in this,” promised York defender Carlisle.

“Everyone has a right to free speech – just like you can’t coerce anyone into shaking hands, you can’t make somebody wear a T-shirt. There are two sides to this one. First of all, Sir Alex Ferguson is continual in his unwavering support for the Kick It Out campaign, which is commendable, but you can’t vilify or coerce any individual for making a stand.

“I would sincerely hope that Ferguson now speaks with Rio Ferdinand, asks him why he wanted to make that stand and hopefully supports the position he is in and it isn’t seen as a player-against-manager situation.”

What contrast between Ferguson’s reaction and that of Reading manager Brian McDermott, with the 51-year-old mature in his support for Roberts’ stance. The very same striker who came under heavy fire from Ferguson on Friday, with United’s manager labeling Roberts a “sheep” that had “wandered off course”

“Jason had his view and it was very strong view,” retorted former Arsenal player McDermott. “We spoke on Friday and I totally respect [Robert's] view. It was important for him to do what he did today. I one hundred per cent back him.”

Meanwhile, Powar – once a director at KIO – pointedly said via Twitter that “on this weekend of counter-protest some people still don’t get it. Old-skool racists, administrators and ‘leaders’ all still struggling.”

In that Powar is less than opaque in his criticism of Ferguson. The Scot’s support for KIO is manifest, but his understanding of the debate’s nuances is seemingly poor. After all, while Ferguson is keen that the “sheep” stay in line, coerced unity is no confederation of the willing at all.

To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, in matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. In that there is an essential truth. Ferdinand’s stance is both genuine and sound, no matter how unpopular it is in Old Trafford’s hierarchy.

After all, there is no mutual exclusivity between directing anger at those whom perpetrate racism, and those who now do too little to eliminate it from the game. The majority may have worn KIO’s t-shirt this weekend. For those that did not, it is an organisation with much to prove.

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Comments

  1. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    You’re right Ed… Rios crime here isn’t not wearing the shirt… it’s because he “embarrassed” Ferguson… I really am getting sick of that old fuck.

  2. pjch says

    Sorry Alex you are wrong. Rio is making a stand and guess what you have now changed this into something it should never be. You by your comments have taken away the fact that racism is totally wrong and have in a stroke changed it to you against Rio. If you fine him you show the football world that to go against the sayings of Fergie will encounter the rath of Fergie.
    Not long ago you defide talking to the BBC because of family involement. What would you have felt if you had been fined heavily because of this.
    Iam a United fan by the way and am sick and tired of the dictatorial ways of Fergie especially on this matter

  3. says

    Absolutely spot on. Fergie claims he’s embarrassed, but this really isn’t about him.

    Contrast how the managers of the other 10-11 players who snubbed the shirt have reacted, to Fergie. They’ve backed their players, whilst Sir Alex has done the opposite. He’s also broken one of his biggest rules – not criticising his players in public.

    Finally, I seem to remember Neville, Keane, Scholes and Carroll snubbing an anti-racism tracksuit back in 2005. They suffered no criticism from the boss, but then again I suppose Fergie didn’t make a misguided promise beforehand?

    In case anybody wants to have a butchers, I’ve written about how this could be a PR disaster for the club –

    http://twobanksoffour.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/potential-pr-disaster-brewing-for-manchester-united/

  4. Leroy Cain says

    So, Sir Alex feels the situation is “an embarrassment” for him? Because Rio didn’t wear a t-shirt and Fergie feels slighted? Well, I’m fucking embarrassed by the words of the manager of the team I love. His megalomania is quite ridiculous and he is guilty of hubris. He should back-down and apologise immediately.

  5. Sidsidney says

    Aye, this is turning into a PR disaster for United. I don’t think any other manager has publicly criticised their players for not wearing the tshirt – it’s just Fergie. His post-match comments have taken it to a new level. Nobody is interested in the 4-2 win now. His relentlessly aggressive tactics have backfired.
    This incident could really piss Ferdinand off. If Fergie nails him with the hairdryer treatment, or fines him, or drops him – or all three – then I reckon it will be hard for Rio to forgive him.

  6. madmaxmadmax says

    An issue much bigger than football and Fergie has managed to make it about himself. Actually he is embarrassing himself and the club.

  7. TheHumbleGent says

    I agree with the article but I also think that (I am a conspiracy nut and there’s no way Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone!) that perhaps SAF sees this as a convenient way to undermine Rio and, as he’s approaching the end of his United contract, can create another Keane or Stam scenario, whereas making the players situation untenable.

    SAF should know better than to dictate a players views regards race, especially since it was Rio’s brother that was involved in the incident that sparked this latest race debacle.

    Some issues are sacrosanct and this is one in particular when a player should ‘stick to his guns’.

    SAF is a legend but his arrogance is overwhelming. Not only unwilling to alter line ups and team selection when a change is crying out to be made, he now dips his toe into a mans beliefs and psychological make up.

    I just wish he’d learn a little humility.

    • Leroy Cain says

      But why undermine him and make it untenable? Rio is out of contract in the summer anyway so there is no need to try to force him out. Especially at the moment with all the defensive injuries. Surely more likely to ‘do a Berba’ by giving him a new contract and then trying to flog him to get some cash? It’s a different situation entirely to the two you mention as Keane was causing more harm than good to the club and Stam was sold (in error) for very good money.

      • TheHumbleGent says

        I take your point regards the different scenarios (Keane/Stam) however Stam was sold for mentioning something in a book that SAF believed undermined him, regardless of the amount of money we received for him.

        Could you imagine Keane being shipped out for the same outburst in the Treble season? Not a chance.

        We know, although we’re not privy to the goings on, how ruthless SAF can be and my point was that it wouldn’t surprise me if this situation was as much engineering as a point of principle on SAF’s part.

        Just food for thought that’s all.

        • Leroy Cain says

          Well, yes, we never quite know what’s going on with Fergie. If it is indeed a ploy to oust Rio it’s a phenomenally high-risk strategy!

  8. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    “I agree with the article but I also think that (I am a conspiracy nut and there’s no way Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone!) that perhaps SAF sees this as a convenient way to undermine Rio and, as he’s approaching the end of his United contract, can create another Keane or Stam scenario, whereas making the players situation untenable.”

    He doesn’t have to do that… United fans are already questioning whether Rio’s still got the game for top level football… if Fergie put him in the shop window, he’d sell no problem… alienating Rio like this just drives his price down… but then again, Ferguson is good at that.

  9. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    I mentioned in another thread, how I think Ferguson is showing the ignorance of his generation in the way he’s handling this issue… along with his legendary stubborn nature, I can’t see him changing tack here… unless he finds a way to solve this problem,(of his own making), without losing face, I can’t see an end to this… the press have wanted a noose to throw around Fergusons neck for years… they’ve got one now, and if they can, they’ll string him up good and high with it.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  10. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    We’re seeing the very thing that has made Fergie the legend that he undoubtedly is. His ego and stubbornness!!

    He is wrong in this, he won’t admit it, but he is. It’s Rio’s right to show his own protest, the guy is a grown man FFS. Why didn’t Fergie speak with Rio first to find out what his opinions were?

    To be honest…. it’s ALL Phelan’s fault.

  11. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/manchester-united-boss-sir-alex-1391797

    It’s all kicking off…

    A lot of the papers are arguing this issue now…

    And for the most part, Ferguson is perceived as in the wrong here… but the interesting thing, is how much attention has been focussed on the KIO campaign and the fight against racism… and it’s all because a few players said “fuck it, I’m not wearing the poxy t-shirt”… as far as I’m concerned, it’s objective achieved… and it makes Ferguson look even more foolish.

  12. ForeverRed says

    I think the bigger issue from a United perspective is how Fergie is losing control of the dressing room. How he can come out in the press so categorically on Friday when he clearly hasn’t got alignment/support of all his players on the issue. If he knew there was the potential for dissent in the ranks, he should have just kept quiet about the whole thing. If he doesn’t anticipate the dissent then he’s not in touch with the dressing room. Either way, poor leadership.

  13. steggo says

    I’m with Ferguson on this one. As your article says Jason Roberts spoke to his manager and explained why he was not going to wear the t-shirt on the Friday before the match. Everybody knew the stance Roberts would take. However,and I may be wrong here, Ferguson announced that all the United players would wear the shirt, unaware that Ferdinand intended to make his protest. As a senior pro at the club Ferdinand has an obligation to keep his manager informed of what action he intended to take thereby avoiding such “misunderstandings”. Would Ferguson have forced Ferdinand to wear the shirt-I doubt it. In fact, had he been aware of it he probably would have backed it.
    However a good article was let down by quoting the Sun. For Gods sake, when can they ever be relied on to let truth get in the way of a good story?

    • Leroy Cain says

      But it was widely known Rio was not going to wear the t-shirt before Fergie even gave his press conference. I watched the newspaper round-up on SSN at 7:30 on Friday morning and they were certainly reporting by then that neither Rio nor Anton were going to wear the thing.

      I do agree with you that Rio probably should have spoken to his manager about it but he presumably figured it was his own personal decision. Anyway, pleased to learn that the matter has seemingly now been resolved between them.

  14. Alec Sverguson says

    If a black player was found guilty of calling John Terry an f’ing white c*nt do you think there’d be as much of an uproar? Cos even those of us who share his race would agree he is the white devil, and I’m sure players are calling each other f’ing c*nts left and right if it’s anything like Sunday League. I just still can’t understand how black is a derogatory term in this day and age after so many wonderful black people have influenced the world. Luckily I suppose for us the sensationalist journalism will turn on Chelsea once Terry is back wearing the swastika armband. Captain’s armband, sorry.

  15. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    I’m with Ferguson on this one. As your article says Jason Roberts spoke to his manager and explained why he was not going to wear the t-shirt on the Friday before the match. Everybody knew the stance Roberts would take. However,and I may be wrong here, Ferguson announced that all the United players would wear the shirt, unaware that Ferdinand intended to make his protest. As a senior pro at the club Ferdinand has an obligation to keep his manager informed of what action he intended to take thereby avoiding such “misunderstandings”. Would Ferguson have forced Ferdinand to wear the shirt-I doubt it. In fact, had he been aware of it he probably would have backed it.
    However a good article was let down by quoting the Sun. For Gods sake, when can they ever be relied on to let truth get in the way of a good story?

    Bollocks… everyone else knew that Rio wasn’t wearing it… it was all over the papers…

  16. steggo says

    Not “bollocks” as you so delicately put it. There is not one newspaper that carries a definitive quote from Ferdinand prior to the Stoke game where he actually states that he will not be wearing the shirt. What was published was rumour and conjecture. Do you really think Ferguson would be quoted on the Friday as saying Ferdinand would be wearing the shirt if he (Ferdinand) had gone public on not wearing it? Keep reading the Sun!!

  17. Sidsidney says

    There are lots of ways footballers release messages on the sly. He could have got one of his people to do it, or done it himself under the condition there were no direct quotes.
    Anyway, Fergie’s press conference today was interesting. He’s put the incident down to poor communication. He sort of made out as though he was culpable in not speaking to Rio about it before the game (he should have done really, Anton is his brother FFS). But then he said that their anger was misdirected – that it should be toward the FA.
    He also said Rio is dropped for tomorrow’s game (along with Evra and a few others) because we have Chelsea on Sunday.
    Will that put out the fire? Probably.

  18. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    Not “bollocks” as you so delicately put it. There is not one newspaper that carries a definitive quote from Ferdinand prior to the Stoke game where he actually states that he will not be wearing the shirt. What was published was rumour and conjecture. Do you really think Ferguson would be quoted on the Friday as saying Ferdinand would be wearing the shirt if he (Ferdinand) had gone public on not wearing it? Keep reading the Sun!!

    Nowt “delicate” about it… I call it as I see it… whether there was a definitive quote or just rumours… it was still well known that many players weren’t planning on wearing the shirt, including Rio and his brother… Ferguson shot his mouth off without knowing the feelings of his own players… and you think he was right…

    By the way… how do you know it was printed in the Sun?… I didn’t know that.

    Dopey fucker…

  19. steggo says

    But obviously not well known enough for Ferguson to realise Ferdinands intentions. Everybody knew the stance Roberts was going to take because he made it public. Ferdinand did not and that is where the problem arose.Quite simple really.

    The Sun???Just alluding to your mental capacity as emphasized by your childish name calling.But you keep looking at it (nobody actually reads it,do they?) and increase your knowledge of all things.

  20. vlad says

    SAF backed down.. – but whatever is said at the press conference, Rio won’t be forgiven, and it’s his last season at OT.

    It may well be SAF’s last, too.

  21. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Yeah… do I ever feel put in my place…
    Look, if you want to play the fussy twat, fine… the rumour was there… everyone had heard the talk that many players, including Rio and his brother were considering not wearing the shirts… and Ferguson was aware of Roberts intentions, so it’s safe to assume that he knew that Rio was also considering not wearing this… so Ferguson should have made sure of what the situation was before opening his gob…
    And “childish name calling”??? Grow up you big baby… you felt the need to slip in a little insult by calling me a Sun reader… I don’t piss about… no snide little remarks from me… like I said, I call it as I see it, and you’re a smarmy cunt who foolishly mistakes being pedantic, for being clever…

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  22. steggo says

    Perhaps you think stating fact instead of rumour and gossip is being “pedantic” or “clever”.Unfortunately the reality of the situation is that Ferdinand did not make a public statement-fact. That is what upset Ferguson-fact.

    The intimation that you are a Sun reader seems to have touched a nerve. With your vile name calling I appear to have done Sun readers a disservice.Learn to analyse fact and reality, not tabloid rumour or “gossip” you think goes on in the professional game.

  23. Sidsidney says

    Most of the 20 or so players who didn’t wear the shirt didn’t make a statement about it beforehand either. And none of their managers criticised them for it.

    I reckon Fergie had a suspicion Rio wasn’t going to wear the shirt, that’s why he said what he said in his pre-match press conference. It seemed odd at the time.

  24. steggo says

    Good point. However Ferdinand has major involvement in the Terry incident and is a major player in the anti racism campaign and therefore has a much higher profile than even Jason Roberts.Perhaps he engineered this “conflict” with Ferguson to highlight serious issues that need debating?

  25. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    Perhaps you think stating fact instead of rumour and gossip is being “pedantic” or “clever”.Unfortunately the reality of the situation is that Ferdinand did not make a public statement-fact. That is what upset Ferguson-fact.
    The intimation that you are a Sun reader seems to have touched a nerve. With your vile name calling I appear to have done Sun readers a disservice.Learn to analyse fact and reality, not tabloid rumour or “gossip” you think goes on in the professional game.

    No, you didn’t touch any nerves Mate… I just don’t take shit off slippery little twerps, who would rather fight to the death to prop up an irrelevant argument with pedantic details, than admit that they’re just wrong… no one else is splitting hairs about what Rio can actually be quoted for saying or not saying… most reasonable people are quite satisfied to accept what was widely believed… but you carry on defending Ferguson, even though he, himself has found it necessary to climb down.
    And vile name calling???
    What’s vile about smarmy?… you are smarmy…

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  26. steggo says

    I’m sure your’e a likeable chap but “dopey f…..”, “fussy t..t” “smarmy c..t” are names that are ever so slightly unpleasant, especially directed at someone you don’t know.

    I suggest we take up our next argument without any name calling or,on my part,insinuation.

  27. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    I’m sure your’e a likeable chap but “dopey f…..”, “fussy t..t” “smarmy c..t” are names that are ever so slightly unpleasant, especially directed at someone you don’t know.
    I suggest we take up our next argument without any name calling or,on my part,insinuation.

    That’s a fair offer, but you must be new here, or just not that regular, or else you would know that I consider everyone here a twat, and it’s said in the genuine spirit of United kinship… fact is, if you haven’t been called a cunt or a twat by me at least once, then you just haven’t visited enough.
    And I don’t apologise for my language… I write as I talk, (except in the presence of my daughter and missus, who would gladly slap me one)… I freely admit to being a bit of a barbarian… result of a misspent youth and a life among heathens…
    But the hand of peace is never refused, and if that’s what that was, then happily accepted…

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  28. steggo says

    Good.Yes the hand of peace stretches far. I look forward to further discussion and will take your comments in the spirit they are intended.

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