LONDON – Brothers Rio and Anton Ferdinand criticized the recent attempts of England soccer leaders to combat racism in the wake of a series of high-profile cases, saying Wednesday it exposes the "deep divisions" that still exist in the sport.
They have been central figures in the yearlong John Terry racism case. Also Wednesday, England's players' union called for stiffer punishment for racial abuse in the wake of high-profile cases in the Premier League.
Such abuse should be considered "gross misconduct," and soccer authorities should have the option to fire players and terminate contracts, the Professionals Footballers' Association said.
"Although we have been left disappointed by the PFA and the FA's actions over the last year, as a family, we are committed to working with football's existing organizations towards the betterment of the game and to achieve immediate action," the Ferdinands said in a joint statement.
Terry was banned for four matches by the Football Association after finding the Chelsea captain guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand in a Premier League game against Queens Park Rangers a year ago on Tuesday. That incident came a month after Liverpool striker Luis Suarez hurled repeated racial slurs at Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, earning the Uruguay international an eight-match suspension from the FA.
"It has been a year since the incident at Loftus Road," the Ferdinands said. "During that time, some of the deep divisions that exist in football have been exposed.
"In the coming months there will be ongoing discussions, we are sure, on finding a way forward. We intend to participate in these discussions, along with numerous other current and ex-professionals of all races, from the grassroots upwards, across the football community as a whole."
The players union announced its proposal as part of a six-point action plan in the hope it will curtail plans for a breakaway black players' union.
The Ferdinands were among the players who declined to wear T-shirts last weekend in support of the anti-discrimination campaign Kick It Out because of a perceived a lack of action following recent cases of racism.
"On the issue of Kick It Out, we would like to go on record to say what fantastic work they have done in the past regarding education and awareness," the Ferdinands said. "However, times change and organizations need to change with them. We are more than happy to join the discussion, privately, to make Kick It Out more relevant in its fight to stamp out racism in football."
The PFA also wants English soccer to adopt something akin to the NFL's Rooney Rule, which requires clubs to at least interview, if not select, ethnic minorities for positions.
Since the Rooney Rule was introduced in 2003, there been increases in black coaches in the NFL.
Of the top 92 clubs in England, only four have black managers.
Other ideas included speeding up the "process of dealing with reported racist abuse with close monitoring of any incidents," and helping individuals or clubs who have committed an offense enroll in an equality awareness program.