Rio Ferdinand welcomes BT’s new Home Nations partnership

Rio Ferdinand has welcomed BT’s new football partnership involving the Home Nations and hinted he would be interesting in joining the board of a football club or association.

The former England defender was speaking at the launch of the strategy, which will use the power of football and technology to release the potential of para and disability, and grassroots and women’s football communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

BT’s 4-3-3 Home Nations Football Sponsorship strategy will break down barriers to playing or supporting the beautiful game.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United – Emirates FA Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium
Rio Ferdinand is an ambassador for BT Sport (Mike Egerton/PA)

Ferdinand, an ambassador and pundit for the broadcaster, discussed the need for more people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to get top jobs in the sport.

“I think it’s about reaching out into the communities and giving them the understanding that there is an opportunity to get on that ladder,” he said.

“There needs to be something that’s going to suggest that that’s changing. That people will be incentivized into making that first step. I think that’s the same with the boardroom.

“On the pitch, it’s very, very diverse. Black players, players of all different backgrounds out on the pitch. But that’s not reflected anywhere else in the game.

“That has to come from yes underneath, something like this that is hopefully going to provide the foundations and help push people into it but also it has to come from the top as well. It can’t just come from one way.

“There need to be people in the boardrooms who say, OK I’m willing to open the doors. Listen I’m going to put my neck out and say I want you to come into the boardroom or be part of the consulting team that is going to show people that there is a way into the boardrooms or into the upper echelons of the game.”

Ferdinand’s cousin Les is director of football at Championship club QPR, but there are few from BAME backgrounds who have followed in his footsteps.

Les Ferdinand
Les Ferdinand is director of football at QPR (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The ex-Manchester United centre back would be willing to, he added: “If the right situation came in front of me, I would definitely.

“Me and my team have spoken to different people, organisations and for whatever reasons it hasn’t materialised.

“There’s so many players of different backgrounds and cultures who’ve played over the years, but are they being given opportunities, I don’t think they are?”

A school visit from ex-Chelsea footballer Paul Elliott inspired Ferdinand when he was a youngster and he feels BT’s 4-3-3 Home Nations strategy can help ensure the next generation have opportunities into the sport.

England v Wales – UEFA Euro 2016 – Group B – Stade Felix Bollaert-Delelis
Paul Elliott was an inspiration to Rio Ferdinand (Mike Egerton/PA)

Para and disability innovation hubs are set to be created by BT alongside the launch of The FA Playmaker – an official FA entry-level online course which will be free to sign up to and available to anyone over 14 interested in taking a more active role in grassroots football.

BT’s projects over a five-year agreement are with each of the FA, Scottish FA, Irish FA and FA of Wales, with the aim to deliver against specific goals and commitments for their communities.

“A big part of it was I saw a plan I saw a strategy, I saw a pathway of what they wanted to do,” Ferdinand said.

“BT can’t do everything but I believe that what we see here means there’s going to be progress.

“There’s a commitment, not just from a monetary perspective but a plan of action. I think they’re committed to making sure this isn’t just bollocks that is spouted out at a press conference and there’s no foundations to it.”

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