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Les Ferdinand forms diversity campaign group, says FA only interested in ‘tokenism’

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Les Ferdinand has said the FA is only interested in “tokenism” and has helped form a campaign group of Black former footballers to increase diversity in English football’s governing bodies.

Ferdinand, who is director of football at Queens Park Rangers, told The Times: “We need a voice for ourselves because we’re just not being heard,” adding the FA is the institution that needs to start it all off, and there is nobody of colour in any position of power.

“[Paul Elliott?] What does he do? He’s in the boardroom almost like a token.”

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An academic report by Professor Stefan Szymanski, and commissioned by Black Footballers Partnership (BFP), found that although 43% of players in the Premier League and EFL are Black, “4.4% of managerial positions usually taken by former players are occupied by Black employees,” and 1.6% of executive, leadership and ownership positions are Black.

The report recommended the “formation of a new, well-resourced and strategic organisation to represent the interests of Black players and build good practice across the game,” and added the voluntary code on diversity should be replaced with a compulsory code.

Ferdinand said: “You’ve given them a voluntary code! If they don’t comply, there’s no repercussions.

“We are losing generations and generations of talented young Black footballers who come out of the game who have got something to offer. It’s almost like we’re allowed to love the game as players but that’s about it. We can be entertainers but we’re not allowed to be leaders.

“I see the likes of [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard and [Wayne] Rooney coming to the end of their careers, all great players in their time, Tony Adams and Steve Bruce, and everyone talks about what great managers they’ll make because of the stellar playing careers they’ve had.

“I see Ian Wright, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Ince coming to the end of their careers and they’re never mentioned in the media in the same light. They’ve had stellar careers.

“It’s partly the owners but the owners listen to what the media say. They should be above that, but are they?”

Ferdinand claims the FA’s initiatives are “all talk,” and said the Elite Coach Placement Programme, which is designed to give visibility to the pathway for Black coaches is patronising.

“I’ve been having this conversation about a glass ceiling for black coaches with the FA for 30 years and nothing’s changed,” he added.

The former Newcastle and Tottenham player also extended the need for greater representation in international governing bodies.

“When Uefa and Fifa put their punishments in place for racism in the crowd, they think they’re doing the right thing but they just don’t understand the problem because it’s never affected them in their lives,” Ferdinand said.

“You need people with an understanding of the situation in there. And if you want to stop racism in stadiums, ban one of these teams from the European Championship or the World Cup.”



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