Skip to content

England’s chant about Rio and Anton Ferdinand – racist or banter?

Mar 29, 2013, 9:03 AM EDT

Manchester United's Ferdinand shakes hands with Queens Park Rangers' Ferdinand after their English Premier League soccer match in Manchester

Question: is the following chant concerning Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton racist or banter?

‘Build a bonfire, 

Build a bonfire,

Put Rio on the top,

Put Anton in the middle,

Then burn the f****** lot.

The chant – allegedly sung by England supporters during last Friday’s World Cup Qualifier against San Marino – was reported to FIFA by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), a pan-European entity whose goal is to rid racism from football.

FARE, headed by Piara Powar, was not present at the game to hear the chant because apparently San Marino was not a ‘high risk’ match for racism. But FARE nevertheless chose to file the report based on information from people who were present at the match (in other words, it appears the group’s argument is based entirely on hearsay). The group also reported racist or xenophobic incidents at Croatia v. Serbia and Poland v. Ukraine, matches where members were present.

FIFA will now review the report and decide whether action should be taken against England. If the governing body decides that FARE’s report has merit, England will be punished with the ultimate sanction potentially requiring the Three Lions to play a World Cup qualifier behind closed doors.

Powar explained why his group believes the song to be racist. “It refers to the racist abuse Rio Ferdinand received, along with his brother Anton. We don’t make the judgement. We send a report to FIFA but in the end its their decision whether they open proceedings or not. And whether they issue a fine or not.

“It’s not really the sort of thing we are generally attuned to looking at – fans abusing players of their own country who may not have been picked. Nevertheless if it happens at a game, even if the focus of the abuse isn’t there it’s still happening.

“One of the things we want to underline straight off is that sometimes racism doesn’t only take the form of monkey chants or bananas being thrown. Sometimes there are things that are more subtle at play.

“In the end we are not responsible for making a decision on whether England fans are guilty of racism here but we do have a duty to report things that are said to us because individuals have reported them as racist or xenophobic within the context.”

Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the news. “You expect and accept banter from fans on the terraces as it’s part of what makes the game great, but racism is not banter and from your own fans. WOW.

“Always a small minority who ruin it for others.”

The Manchester United defender was careful, however, to note that the investigation still needs to run its course. “Let’s not jump to conclusions and assume though as it might just have been banter. We’ll see after the investigation.”

England fans took to Sportsmail comment boards to express views that ranged from confusion to outrage. The fans’ primary arguments are that 1) the song has been around a long time and 2) it was only directed at Rio due to his recent behavior. “‘Build a bonfire’ is an old football chant and one used by miners about Thatcher,” said a fan by the name of ‘ghanimah’. “Given Rio’s behaviour it’s no wonder they sung about him but if that’s deemed racist then we should all pack our bags, go home and give up… Absolutely ludicrous.”

‘Tone 827′ echoed these sentiments. “Dont get me wrong its a stupid chant and aimed at causing distress….but is it really racist? Are we getting to the point where just a derogatory remark to someone who is of afro-carribean descent is deemed racism? As a white British man (who is absolutely NOT racist) its starting to grate a bit now…Rio was working for a TV channel covering the game, it was inevitable he was going to get some stick, at least he is being sensible about it and accepting that banter happens, lets not get to the point where nobody can say anything without being accused of racism even if it clearly is not.”

So what do you think? Is the chant – within the context of being directed at Rio and Anton Ferdinand – racist or just banter? Help decide by voting in ProSoccerTalk’s poll and share your views in the Comments below.

Latest Posts
  1. Krieger credits Ellis, communication for United States’ defensive success

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    USA defender Ali Krieger (R) vies with Germany's forward Anja Mittag during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final football match between USA and Germany at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal on June 30, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. hasn’t given up a goal in 513 minutes at this World Cup, heading into the final against Japan.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew SC 2-1 New York Red Bulls

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT

    Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew SC Getty Images

    Kei Kamara -> Ethan Finlay (x2) was all Crew SC needed to jump three places in the Eastern Conference.

  3. 2015 Copa America awards: Vargas, Guerrero beat Aguero, Vidal to top scorer

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

    Eduardo Vargas, Chile — 2015 Copa America semifinal Eduardo Vargas, Chile — 2015 Copa America semifinal

    Eduaro Vargas and Paolo Guerrero beat all the big names to the 2015 Copa America top scorer’s award.

  4. For Japan women’s national team, approach to game and life is team-first

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Members of Japan's national team joke during a training session in Vancouver on July 4, 2015, on the eve of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final against the US.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The solidarity between Japan teammates — and between the two teams contesting the final — is remarkable.

  5. Chile 0-0 (4-1 PKs) Argentina: Chile’s first Copa America title in 99-year history (video)

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    Chile, 2015 Copa America champions Chile, 2015 Copa America champions

    It took 99 years, but Chile are finally champions of South America after defeating Argentina in a penalty shootout.

  6. Steven Gerrard’s first gift to his new LA Galaxy supporters — cases of California beer

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:28 PM EDT

    Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy

    Steven Gerrard is winning points with LA Galaxy supporters before ever stepping on the field for his new club.

  7. Transfers confirmed: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid sign Douglas Costa, Jackson Martinez

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:07 PM EDT

    Douglas Costa, FC Bayern Munich Getty Images

    Regulars in the latter stages of the Champions League, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid continue their summer spending sprees.

  8. FOLLOW LIVE — Copa America final: Messi, Argentina face hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chile v Argentina - 2015 Copa America Chile Final Chile v Argentina - 2015 Copa America Chile Final

    We go once more at the 2015 Copa America. This time it’s Argentina vs. Chile for all the marbles.

  9. Busy international summer could give clubs plenty to plan for next season

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    Messi Getty Images

    With international competitions all over the globe this summer, clubs may want to think about stockpiling depth and resting their best players throughout the course of next season.

  10. Lloyd, Brian prove crucial to United States’ turnaround at Women’s World Cup

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Carli Lloyd has taken rightfully taken over the spotlight, but Morgan Brian’s supporting role is no less important.

  11. Dinamo Zagreb president, manager arrested on bribery and tax evasion charges

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Mamic Getty Images

    Croatia’s most successful club has seen police throw its president and manager in prison.

  12. Sepp Blatter’s championing of women’s soccer leaves Megan Rapinoe unimpressed

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Rapinoe Getty Images

    Popularity of women’s soccer has improved greatly the past few years, but there’s still much work to be done, and the US international isn’t happy with FIFAs parading of accomplishments.

  13. Report: Robin van Persie agrees to personal terms with Fenerbahce

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    VanPersie Getty Images

    With the Dutchman set to turn 32 before the start of the league season, Manchester United may look to cash in on his star power after a down year.

  14. Galatasaray officially unveils Lukas Podolski on a permanent transfer from Arsenal

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Podolski Getty Images

    The German international didn’t get a first-team guarantee from Arsene Wenger, so he moved on.

  15. Shaqiri proving a wanted man with Atletico Madrid and Spurs joining the mix

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT

    Shaqiri Getty Images

    Stoke had an offer accepted by Inter, but two more clubs are reportedly in the mix for the Swiss international.

  16. Copa America Final preview: Argentina looks for first title since 1993 against hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:31 AM EDT

    Aguero Getty Images

    Argentina looks to end a 22-year continental trophy drought against the hosts who have never won the Copa America.

  17. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-0 DC United

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:15 AM EDT

    Marco Pappa AP

    Tyrone Mears scored an absolute beauty late in the match to down a ten-man D.C. United.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip