Ferdinand: Football has 'unconscious bias' against black executives
Written by Simon Austin — September 11, 2019
QPR Director of Football Les Ferdinand doubts he would have been given his job were it not for the fact the club has an ethnic minority board, as football has a “massive unconscious bias” against BAME executives.
As far as TGG is aware, Ferdinand is the only BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) Director of Football (or equivalent) in English football. Research published at the end of 2017 showed that just 22 of 482 senior coaching roles in English football's top four divisions were held by BAME coaches.
The former England international believes the fact that four fifths of the QPR board - including Malaysian chairman Tony Fernandes - is BAME meant he got an opportunity he may not have had elsewhere.
“I’m not sure I would have been given the opportunity if it was not for an ethnic minority board,” he told the Training Ground Guru Podcast.
“It’s an old establishment we’re working under. Football, for a long time, has been people employing their mates. People talk about the old boy’s club, and that’s what football has been.
“Black executives didn’t see it as an industry they could perform in, in the same way that as a young boy I didn’t see football as an arena I could go and ply my trade in, until I saw the likes of Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson playing on a regular basis for West Brom.
“Up until then, football wasn’t an industry I thought I could have a career in. There is a massive unconscious bias. But we keep bringing this back to football; this is not just football, this is society, and society does not allow BAME representatives to climb the ladder.”
The 52-year-old also believes governing bodies could do more to crack down on racist incidents inside stadiums. Last week, striker Romelu Lukaku was the subject of monkey chants from Cagliari fans as he stepped up to take a penalty for Inter Milan.
“When we talk about eradicating it (racist incidents) from stadiums, if they (the governing bodies) really want to, they can. Because if they were to kick one of these teams out of major competition, in the same way England were kicked out of European football for five years because of hooliganism.
“But the people who make the decisions have never been racially abused, so they don’t understand it.”
Ferdinand, who scored 149 Premier League goals, was appointed Director of Football Operations at QPR in October 2014 before being promoted to Director of Football the following February.
In November 2018, he was interviewed for the job of FA Technical Director, which eventually went to Les Reed. Some reports claimed he had turned down the interview, but Ferdinand says "it was reported wrongly".
“I was approached by the FA and asked if I would interview for the job," he explained. "They asked if I would have a private meeting.
“I said if you want to meet me and interview for the job, you need to talk to my football club. They’ve been very good to me, I’m not going to go behind their backs and have a private meeting about this job.
“So they wrote a letter asking if they could interview me. They said we don’t want you to leave, but it’s a bigger job than you’re doing now, you’ve played for England, and it’s perhaps something you’d want to look at. They said we’d like you to go for the interview.
“I went for the interview and unfortunately I didn’t get the role.”