MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 05: Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United looks on during a Manchester United training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Carrington Training Ground on April 5, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rio Ferdinand

If you are going on ability then Rio Ferdinand not only makes it into the England squad, he makes it into the team.

I think everybody in the game knows that.I know that a manager has to live and die by a decision he makes, but to tell us that Rio has not made it into the squad that is travelling to Euro 2012 for footballing reasons is really insulting people’s intelligence.

If his brother Anton had not found himself at odds with John Terry, would Rio have been going?

Sadly this is just one more chapter in a season that has set back the game years in terms of the attitude to racism. On the field it has been brilliant, with dramas like Chelsea winning the Champions League and Manchester City’s injury time goals that snatched the Premier League title.

From a personal point of view, I had the wonderful experience of winning promotion with Reading.But all that has been against a backdrop of incidents that have polarised so many people, and have been deeply worrying for how some dubious views have been allowed to be aired and the way they have been received.

As a player I thankfully never suffered anything like the sort of abuse my uncle, Cyrille Regis, had to put up with. Maybe there were a few things at the start of my career but that slowed down and the game was lauded for the good work that had been done. But just because people on a pitch or in a crowd are not openly racist or prejudiced, it does not mean attitudes have changed.

Enough has been said about the Luis Suarez incident with Patrice Evra, and the issues between John Terry and Rio’s brother Anton. What has concerned me is the way people who have spoken about these affairs have suffered torrents of abuse.

Some of the views being aired by people in prominent positions beggared belief.

Sepp Blatter with his suggestion that ‘what happens on the pitch should stay on the pitch’ was well publicised.

The president of Fifa might have been the most high-profile person voicing that view, but he wasn’t the only one.

A lot of other people involved in our game, in the Premier League and Football League and right across all levels, made similar outrageous comments and showed their lack of knowledge and understanding.

In my view it set us back 30 years. We are not having bananas thrown at people, but these dubious views shows we are not that far away.

The ‘Rooney rule’ — copying what happens in the United States in the NFL, where clubs have to interview an ethnic minority candidate before appointing a head coach, was another debate that came up.

It was something I tweeted about and talked about on the radio, and the abuse and negative attitudes that came back let me know we just weren’t where I thought we were.

You can have campaigns with glossy banners and slogans, but have we actually changed people’s views?

We have already lost one generation of black and ethnic minority players who might have made a contribution as coaches, managers, administrators or in the media, and if we are not careful we will lose another one.

Let me make it clear that when I got offered the opportunity to develop a career in the media, this was the very last agenda I wanted to set.

I wanted to talk about great players, brilliant games and clever tactics used by managers.But I can’t be in the media and not speak on these issues as they come up. I can’t have the forum to speak and not take it up.

The only way we’ll change is if people are willing to express strong views.This is a huge issue among black players.

Unfortunately, the reaction against those who havespoken out has discouraged even more from airing their views.

Every player I have spoken to on these issues has been deeply concerned with the way not only ethnic minorities are represented now in the upper echelons of the game, but the way their pathways are blocked once they come off the pitch.

There are only a sprinkling of black people in the media, in administration of the game, in coaching and academies and right through the game.

We need to ask ourselves some strong questions about the game in general and not just about why Rio Ferdinand has been left at home. – Daily Mail