Rio Ferdinand was the target of racial abuse at Molineux Stadium as he covered Wolves vs Manchester United for BT Sport in May 2021, a court has been told. Eyewitnesses alleged that a supporter made a monkey gesture towards the pundit on the final day of the 2020-21 Premier League season.
The former Red Devils defender has previously stated that he was unaware of the alleged gesture that was being made towards him. It was spotted by a member of his security team, who alerted authorities to the matter.
Jamie Arnold, 32, was charged in July of last year with racially abusing Ferdinand, but he has denied any wrongdoing on the first day of the trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
When did the incident occur?
As mentioned, the incident occurred during the final game of the 2020-21 campaign between Wolves and Manchester United at Molineux Stadium. It was the first time supporters had been allowed back into stadiums following the Covid-19 pandemic and a limited amount of home fans had won tickets in a ballot for the match.
Ferdinand was covering the match as part of BT Sport's coverage and had engaged "in a little bit of banter" with those supporters. His former side won the match 2-1 thanks to goals from Anthony Elanga and Juan Mata either side of Nelson Semedo's equaliser.
What did the witnesses say?
After Ferdinand said that he hadn't seen any racist gestures made towards him by Arnold, other witnesses gave their eyewitness accounts.
Stuart Munden-Edge, part of the security team on the day, claimed that he spotted a male verbally abusing the BT Sport pundit. He told jurors: “There was an occasion where he was getting no reaction from Rio, and proceeded to pose as a monkey, hunchback, his hands under his armpits, pointing towards Mr Ferdinand.”
Wolves supporter Mark Zammit claimed it was unlike anything he had ever seen at a game of football prior to that.
“He was shouting the abuse… at Rio and doing a monkey gesture, with his hands, under his arms," he told the court. “He shouted ‘Rio you f*cking monkey’.
“I was in total disbelief, I was shocked, I’m used to banter at football stadiums but in my time going, I’ve never seen anything like that."
The trial is expected to last a week before a verdict is reached.