Former England captain Rio Ferdinand and current England manager Roy Hodgson have joined the Football Association’s England Commission, set up to discuss ways the infrastructure of the game in England can be improved.
Ferdinand’s appointment comes just a day after the Commission was criticised as “singularly damaged” by the FA’s only female board member, Heather Rabbatts, who slammed the lack of diversity among the eight white men initially appointed to the think tank.
FA chairman Sir Greg Dyke responded by assuring Rabbatts that further names would be added to the panel that would address her concerns, with Ferdinand seemingly fitting that bill.
In a statement on Sunday, Dyke said:
Rio's vast experience as a player developed through West Ham's successful youth system, winning Premier League and European titles with Manchester United and representing England at World Cups means he has a huge amount to offer to the debate.
We have been speaking to Rio and Manchester United for some time about him joining the group - before we named the other members of the Commission. However, as he is a current Manchester United player we needed to be sure that Rio had the necessary time to fully participate on the commission and not impact on his day job. It has been agreed he does.
As a current player with forthright views and opinions on the game, we can look forward to Rio providing significant insight and experience.
Ferdinand has endured a tricky relationship with the FA in recent times, having retired from international football in May, nearly two years after his last international cap—having been overlooked by England for the 2012 European Championships despite remaining a valued player at Manchester United.
Issues over his fitness—with the defender's club, Manchester United, having a meticulous regimen in place to keep him in peak condition—prevented his return on at least one occasion.
However, many observers suggested he was being sacrificed to avoid a controversial link-up with then-Three Lions captain John Terry, who was accused of racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother Anton in a 2011 incident.
Terry was eventually cleared of those charges in court in 2012, before being given a four-game ban for the same incident in a separate FA hearing—a decision that provoked the Chelsea defender to retire from international football himself.
Hodgson was the manager for part of the period Ferdinand was left out; although, there is no suggestion the pair will be unable to work together.
Hodgson, who has previously worked in countries as disparate as Switzerland, South Africa and Italy during his career, has been invited to the panel to bring to bear his vast experience in the game.
On Tuesday, the 66-year-old successfully led England's senior national team to next summer's World Cup.
"It is important Roy can offer his views as the current manager of the national team and share the knowledge he has gained when working for many years in a number of countries,” Dyke added. “I wanted the international fixtures to be completed before announcing this to avoid any distractions for Roy at such an important time.”
The appointment of Ferdinand may be seen by some as a political manoeuvre, however, after the Commission was panned by Rabbatts earlier in the weekend.
As reported by the BBC, in a letter to the Commission, Rabbatts—who is mixed race—wrote:
I've come to the conclusion the FA's current position is not sustainable.
By proceeding along this current path we are not only failing to reflect our national game but we are also letting down so many black and ethnic minority people—players, ex-players, coaches and volunteers, who have so much to offer and are so often discouraged and disheartened by the attitudes they encounter.
The FA should be leading by example, not reinforcing entrenched attitudes.
I make the comments about diversity not because they are additional to this matter but because they lie at its heart.
Dyke responded by insisting that the issue of diversity would be addressed by subsequent appointments to the panel. The Sunday Times reported that Dyke wrote to Rabbatts, telling her:
The make-up of the commission has been moving for some time but I did explain to you and the board that we planned to appoint two or three additional members and would have done so this week had the issue of Roy Hodgson’s dressing-room comments not blown up. I do accept we made a mistake announcing only part of the membership of the commission when we did.
Other names on the panel include former England manager Glenn Hoddle, ex-England defender Danny Mills, League Managers’ Association chairman Howard Wilkinson and Crewe Alexandra director of football Dario Gradi.
The panel's primary aim is to look at ways the England national team can be improved, from changing the way players are coached at youth level to looking at ensuring more England-eligible men are playing regularly for clubs around Europe.
With Dyke suggesting at least one other person may yet be added to the panel before discussions get underway, it remains to be seen who it will be.
As yet, female and Asian demographics—two sizeable groups that are often said to be underrepresented in English football—are yet to have "representation" in the think tank.