Former England striker Les Ferdinand has said he believes that many people in the English game still have discriminatory attitudes toward coaches of black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds.
Ferdinand, the Queens Park Rangers director of football, suggested during an interview for the Channel 4 documentary Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True that the lack of coaches from BME backgrounds in English football may be down to institutional racism, and cited the John Terry racism case as a potential illustration of entrenched prejudice in the game.
Terry was found not guilty in July 2012 of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand despite, although the Chelsea captain was subsequently found guilty by the Football Association under its own laws.
Asked his reaction to the incident, Ferdinand — Anton’s cousin — said in quotes reported by the Daily Mail: “I suppose it was disbelief really, that the England captain would use language like that on a football field, or anywhere in fact.”
Ferdinand, whose playing career included spells with QPR, Newcastle and Tottenham, said he thought the FA handled the situation “terribly,” saying: “I think it’s a situation that could have been put to bed quite quickly.”
A report in November last year found that only 19 out of the 552 senior coaching positions at England’s 92 league clubs were held by BME coaches, and the issue remains a cause for concern.
Ferdinand suggested the numbers may be the result of widespread racism across the game.
“When you look at the game and the disproportion of black coaches in the game, maybe they’re not actually saying what John Terry said but are they thinking it? Because I have to believe that,” he said.
In a court case heard shortly after he had played at the 2012 European Championship, Terry admitted saying the words “f—— black c—” to QPR defender Anton Ferdinand during a game at Loftus Road in October 2011 but said he was merely repeating the phrase as part of a denial, having believed his opponent had accused him of racial abuse.
He was found not guilty of racial abuse in a court case in July 2012, with Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle saying “nobody has been able to show that he is lying” and adding that there was “a great deal of evidence to show that he is not” a racist.
However, the FA — which already had stripped the defender of the England captaincy in February that year — later found Terry guilty after its own disciplinary proceedings and punished him with a £220,000 fine and four-match suspension.
Ferdinand, whose playing career officially ended after a spell on the books at Watford in the 2005-06 season, was handed a role as part of the Tottenham coaching staff in 2008 and worked at White Hart Lane until 2014.
He returned to football in October last year as QPR’s head of football operations, and was handed the director of football role last month.
However, Ferdinand said he had only once been offered a job as a first-team coach since hanging up his boots.
“Once,” he said, “when I came out of football I spoke to the then chairman of Bournemouth.”
He added: “I know lots of players that I play with who’d love to go into coaching and management and they’ve done all the badges, but they just won’t get an opportunity.”