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Oct 8, 2008

Ferdinand: Deduct points to punish racists

England vice-captain Rio Ferdinand has called on FIFA to end its practice of handing out paltry fines for teams whose supporters chant racial or homophobic abuse at players and suggested that the world governing body start deducting points from them instead.

Ferdinand was furious that the Croatian FA was only fined £15,000 for the behaviour of their fans during last month's 4-1 World Cup qualifier defeat to England in Zagreb when Emile Heskey was subjected to racist chanting.

Ferdinand feels that fines, particularly such meagre fines do not match the zero tolerance hyperbole of football's administrators and has called for tough new measures to be brought in.

''The football authorities need to look at themselves,'' the England vice-captain told BBC Radio Five Live. ''Sepp Blatter [FIFA president] likes to speak up about things that are good for FIFA's image. I would love to see them stand up and dish out the right punishments for these incidents.

''They make a lot of comments about what they are going to do but they never back up the words with actions. Croatia were fined a few thousand quid. What good is that going to do?

''That is not going to stop people shouting racist or homophobic abuse. If things like this keep happening you have to take points off them. Then the punters will realise the team is going to be punished.''

Illustrating Ferdinand's point that fines are not acting as effective deterrents earlier this year the Croatian FA were fined a similarly meagre amount for the racist behaviour of its fans during Croatia's Euro 2008 quarter-final against Turkey.

England players were similarly outraged in 2004 the Spanish FA were handed a £47,000 fine after a month-long investigation for the racist chanting by fans directed at Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips which marred England's friendly in Madrid.

Ferdinand and his team-mates should not be side-tracked by such matters on Saturday when they anticipate the support of a sell-out 90,000 crowd at Wembley for the World Cup encounter with Group Six underdogs Kazakhstan.

The Manchester United man does not share Fabio Capello's belief that the Three Lions find life easier away from their own ground as the high expectation levels sometimes stifle the England players.

However, the 30-year-old suggests the noise levels and sheer passion for their team is something English fans can learn from their Croatian counterparts, if not the unsavoury aspects of their support.

''I love playing at Wembley,'' said Ferdinand. ''But maybe the fans do get a bit agitated if we don't score inside the first 20 minutes. I would just ask them to get behind us and sing their hearts out. If it is a real cauldron, like it is in Zagreb, that helps. No-one enjoys facing 90,000.''

Ferdinand is keen to stress that the improvement England have made since Capello succeeded Steve McClaren is gradual rather than spectacular.

Although some members of the Italian's squad are relishing their opportunities, Theo Walcott being an obvious example, Ferdinand prefers to take a lot of small steps as opposed to one gigantic leap which could end in disaster.

''It is too much if people think of us as a completely different team to the one we were six months ago,'' said Ferdinand. ''Hopefully we can maintain the steady rise we are on at the moment. We have to qualify first and hopefully, by the time we are in the tournament, we will be ready to go.''

Given the shambolic attempt to reach Euro 2008, it could be argued merely getting to South Africa in two years' time would be an achievement.

Ferdinand accepts the misery of missing out has helped provide the spark which Capello has managed to ignite.

''The lads were hurt not getting to the Euros,'' he said. ''But it is a bit of both because the management is different as well. Fabio has a winning mentality. He has proved that. And for us to do what he wants, we have to concentrate at every moment of the game.

''We are very focussed and hopefully that can be the difference in this qualifying campaign.''

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