In a different time and context, the engagement of Rio Ferdinand on a panel to plot a future for England’s football team would have appeared enlightened. But at the end of a weekend in which Greg Dyke’s judgement has been so fundamentally questioned, it was a struggle to view the appointment quite so buoyantly.
The notion of Ferdinand being placed alongside England manager Roy Hodgson on a committee is, quite frankly, excruciating – conjuring up the ghastly mental picture of someone getting the seating plan wrong for the occasion when Dyke’s Commission will settle down at a Wembley meeting room, some time in the next few weeks.
The mingling at the coffee break doesn’t even bear thinking about because, however some may wish to dress it up, Hodgson is an individual whom Ferdinand has come to abhor in the last year. He blames him for a light touch with John Terry, the man who racially abused his own brother, and a heavy handed touch which brought the curtain down on Ferdinand’s own England career. Ask yourself how you would feel.
Hodgson and Ferdinand’s joint appointment suggests a blithe disregard for the dynamics of the team in whose hands so much seemed to rest, when Dyke first revealed his plans for the commission. It is hard to avoid the feeling that this is governance by numbers.
That is a shame, because some of the cynicism washing around social media about Ferdinand last night was ill conceived. His eight-month ban for missing a drugs test in 2003 is irrelevant. His trenchant views on the Premier League’s obscene power base are. He is popular among black and minority ethnic players. Few know that he joined a group of 30 professionals who lobbied the FA last year to express their frustrations about appreciation of issues like the size of the Professional Footballers Association equality unit and the lack of resources going into the Kick It Out organisation.
His disinclination to offer anything more than a press release, explaining his support for the boycott of Kick it Out’s T-shirt campaign at a time when the leader Jason Roberts was taking a leathering for it in the tabloid press, was poor. But ask Roberts about Ferdinand and he will tell you he is a willing campaigner, ready to argue a forceful case.
Which is more than Dyke’s commission project seems capable of. It needs to be ripped up and reformulated, with four or five individuals whom the football world cannot ignore. Gary Neville, the brilliant proponent of the views Ferdinand has articulated, should be an essential member.
The Premier League must be given a detailed picture of the commitment required, presently the impediment to their own involvement. The recruitment process alone might take six months. But the outcome, rather than seating plans, would be hard talk, hard bargaining, new faces, new voices. And some kind of prospect of a breakthrough we all want for England.Reuse content