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Oct 23, 2012

Rio plans breakaway black players' union

Rio Ferdinand is leading a movement to launch a breakaway black players' union to fight racism.

• Brewin: Kick token gestures out
• Blog: Football must do more
• Ferguson: No Rio rift
• Blog: Unity an issue

Reports said the Manchester United defender planned to set up the organisation, which could be called The Federation of Black Players, to tackle all forms of discrimination.

A first draft of a constitution has been written, and the idea is believed to have attracted strong support.

Ferdinand has neither confirmed nor denied the reports, although on Tuesday he tweeted: "Don't believe all u read".

The news came as the Kick It Out campaign chief Lord Herman Ouseley told ESPN he felt the refusal of Ferdinand, his brother Anton and Reading striker Jason Roberts to wear Kick It Out T-shirts this weekend had come across as an attack on his FA-funded organisation.

The players refused to wear them because they said they felt the football authorities were not doing enough to combat racism.

Ferdinand defied his United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to make his protest. On Monday, Ouseley was quoted as saying that the gesture was futile and that he would not have told Manchester United "where to stick their shirt and their £150,000 a week".

He also said he had "no intention of speaking for black footballers who are very wealthy" and who "have to be organised and speak for themselves" - a remark Ferdinand considered to be a direct attack on him.

Ouseley told ESPN: "I support the right to protest, I support the players and I want what they want," he said. "But whether they wear the T-shirts or not is something for them and is between them and their clubs.

"The focus has been on those who have not worn the T-shirts when hundreds - thousands - of players have been wearing them. It comes across as an attack on Kick It Out, and that is unacceptable to me.

"If it's a protest against the football authorities and the need for them and the clubs to do more, then I can see where they are coming from.

"There is a second week of action coming up and I am going to Millwall, where the players plan to wear the T-shirts, where the club is determined to rid itself of its stigma of racism of the past - and that's how it should be.

"For me, it has been nothing short of a week of trying to establish why the T-shirt protest is happening rather than looking at the cause."

And he warned: "I am angry at the non-stop questioning of what Kick It Out is doing or not doing to resolve these problems when the problem-solving lies elsewhere.

"The situation we find ourselves in doesn't take us forward. We need to talk, we need to think about what happens next. We need to address the bigger issues, but instead we focus on the T-shirts."

He said what happened next "needed to be reflected on very carefully", adding that he had received "nasty emails from fans who think I am against whites and against Chelsea because of John Terry, when nothing could be further from the truth".

When questioned on the issue of a potential breakawaygroup in his pre-match conference on Tuesday, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: "I see no merit in this."

On UEFA's move to make all captains where armbands bearing an anti-racism message during this week's round of Champions League matches, Wenger added: "I feel the racism campaign by UEFA is important.

"Racism, xenophobia, discrimination against different cultures need to be addressed. You need respect for everyone."

Wales and Aberdeen keeper Jason Brown has said black footballers could be driven towards setting up a breakaway anti-racism group if the football authorities failed to deal strongly enough with the problem of racism.

He told Sky Sports News: "I'm all for that. We don't want to be rebels, but if they're not doing enough they're driving us to go down that road.

"I know four to five players who have met with Kick It Out and the PFA [Professional Footballers' Association] and gave them suggestions, but it seems they must have got lost because they have done nothing."

However, PFA chief Gordon Taylor said he believed it was best if his members stuck together, saying: "We have moved forward as much as we have done so far by being together.

"It might not be as quick as people would like but a breakaway group would only serve to weaken us and prevent us building bridges with the people who can effect change."