Arsene Wenger sounds warning over rumoured break-away black players' union led by Rio Ferdinand


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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger has come out against the proposed formation of a break-away group to combat racism in English football.

There are reports that Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is to set up a union to protect the interests of black players over the perceived lack of action over racism.

At the weekend Ferdinand refused to warm-up in a T-shirt bearing the slogan of the anti-discriminatory organisation Kick It Out, in response to perceived failures of the charity, and other bodies in the game, to tackle issues in England.

Those rumours have been given weight by Wales and Aberdeen keeper Jason Brown who said black players could feel driven to set up a rival group to combat the issue.

Yet Wenger does not feel this is the way forward, echoing Sir Alex Ferguson's view that it is better to stand together.

The Arsenal manager said today: "I think any split is bad. If there is no racism, if you want to fight against racism, you should not create any federation on a difference that you want to fight against. I personally can't see the logic in that."

Clarke Carlisle, who is chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, has also expressed concern about a break-away group.

Carlisle has revealed he has spoken with Jason Roberts, the Reading striker who first suggested boycotting the Kick It Out T-shirts, about a new movement.

"I've had a number of conversations with Jason over the past few months. The most recent of them was on Sunday and they will continue," Clarke told the Press Association.

"Jason explained one or two things to me but I don't know what the full intentions or the requests are of this breakaway group.

"Until we get everyone in and fully ascertain what they want and the direction they want to go in I can't really comment much further.

"The threat is very real because the proposal is there and the discussions have been had so it's obviously something that has been mooted within the industry.

"We have been having meetings with Jason and we have desperately been trying to get Rio into the meetings and that will continue.

"We will have those discussions with them at the time. We need to know exactly what it is they are wanting. Whether this is a movement that is in full flow and whether they think it is going to happen irrespectively, or whether it is something where they are trying to instigate change within the organisations that are currently in place.

"These are things that we have to hear, assess and weigh up."

Carlisle is hoping the talks prove fruitful, fearing any new anti-racism group could create a split in the game.

"It has the potential to be divisive as when you establish a black players union it would instantly define 'us and them' and that's something we really need to work against," Carlisle said.

"We don't need to separate the players when the whole focus and goal of anti-racism is to campaign for unity so that is something we will be talking about, definitely."

Sports minister Hugh Robertson has also called on players to back the existing anti-racism campaigns.

"This is a moment for cool heads, not hot ones," Robertson said, who claimed the existing charities Show Racism the Red Card and Kick it Out have done "extraordinary work in this area" over a long period.

Robertson said: "I think that, whatever the frustrations, by far the best way to advance this agenda is to get in behind those bodies and to help them carry this work on into the future.

"Footballers are individuals and they take their own decisions.

"I acknowledge and support the work that has been done by the anti-racism bodies, particularly Kick it Out, and I would urge everybody to get behind them so they can continue the work they have been doing to try and kick this out of the game.

"I absolutely understand why the temperature is raised and why they feel very strongly about it but I think it is important that we back Kick it Out and continue to make progress in the way that it has over the last 20 years."

The issue of racism in football has come to the forefront following ugly scenes during a recent England under-21s match in Serbia, while at home, there have been high profile cases involving John Terry and Luis Suarez.

Both Premier League players, who were found guilty of abusing Anton Ferdinand and Patrice Evra respectively, were fined and banned for their use of racist language on the football field, although some argue the punishments meted out to the two players were too lenient.

Robertson added today: "I understand absolutely why feelings are running very high about this. It is clearly not just what is happening in this country.

"I could not believe it when I saw the video out take of the incident in Serbia.

"To think that sort of thing is still going on in this day and age is beyond belief."