Rio Ferdinand says he was left feeling physically sick after being told a Wolves fan had made racist gestures towards him at Molineux during Manchester United’s Premier League victory in May 2021.
Ferdinand was a pundit for BT Sport during Manchester United’s Premier League victory over Wolves in May 2021 – the first game with fans back in stadiums following the Coronavirus pandemic.
Ferdinand, who gave evidence for around 20 minutes at Wolverhampton Crown Court, said that he didn’t see the gestures himself, but one of his security guards told him what had happened.
When asked how it made him feel, he replied: “It makes you feel sick, yeah.”
The jury was shown CCTV footage of a man, which the prosecution say is 32-year-old Jamie Arnold, making an overtly racist gesture inside Molineux.
Three separate witnesses told the court they saw Arnold behaving in this way, although the defence focussed on some differences in the witness testimony.
Ferdinand became visibly agitated while being cross examined by Andrew Baker for the defence, who asked him: “Did you really feel physically sick?”
“Yes, I’m sure you can understand what that means,” Ferdinand replied.
“You dont expect to receive that treatment when you go to a football match” he explained. “But especially because of the circumstances – the first time we’d been back in a football stadium. There was a lot of excitement in the stadium, but that quickly turned to something else.”
The prosecution later called three other witnesses who said they’d seen Arnold making the racist gestures.
Stuart Munden-Edge – a close-protection officer who was working for BT Sport on the day re-enacted how the man giving the abuse had acted at the time.
“He hunched his shoulders, raised his arms under his armpits,” he said.
“It was prolonged for maybe 20-30 seconds. I was disgusted, asked a colleague if he’d seen the same, and he had. And so had a steward, so we asked for that fan to be ejected from the stadium.”
Mark Zammit, a Wolves fan who was sitting a few rows behind Mr Arnold during the game, said he saw the defendant shouting homophobic abuse at the referee, before he then saw him making a racist gesture towards Ferdinand in the TV gantry.
Mr Zammit was again asked to re-enact for the jury the grossly offensive gesture he’d seen, which he did. And he explained it as follows:
“He was jumping up and down, trying to get his attention…”
Mr Zammit said the man then shouted Ferdinand’s name, and made a racist slur based on the colour of his skin:
“There was shock, anger and disbelief among the fans around him. I spoke to the people behind me to see what they’d seen and heard, and they shook their heads in disbelief.”
Arnold, from Norton Bridge in Staffordshire, denies causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.
The trial continues.