Witnesses describe alleged racist abuse at Ferdinand by Wolves fan

Five separate witnesses have told a court they saw a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan direct an overtly racist gesture at Rio Ferdinand, during a Premier League match against Manchester United two and a half years ago.

Ferdinand - the former England and United defender - was working as a pundit for BT Sport at the game in May 2021 when the abuse is alleged to have happened.

Jamie Arnold, 32, of Norton Bridge, Staffordshire, denies causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.

The incident is alleged to have happened during the first game at Molineux after small numbers of home fans were allowed back inside the stadium after the coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

The prosecution says Ferdinand was the only on-screen member of BT staff that was Black, and there were no Black members of staff in the wider BT support staff that day either - so the racist abuse was clearly directed at him.

Mr Richard McConaghy for the prosecution, said: "He (Ferdinand) was the only Black person on the gantry where BT Sport were broadcasting from. What Mr Arnold did was put his arms under his armpits and make (racial) gestures towards Mr Ferdinand.

"Those gestures were seen by various people, including stewards and security officers. He (Mr Arnold) was also heard to shout - 'Rio, you (expletive) (racial slur).'

"The CCTV cameras were directed to find Mr Arnold. They picked Mr Arnold up in the crowd, and there is footage of him turning to his father next to him, and in that footage, he demonstrated the (racist) actions again, and was laughing, and seemed very pleased with himself."

The jury was then shown footage of a man making the gesture, as described. The prosecution say that man is Mr Arnold, the defendant.

Asked how he felt when he saw the gestures, Mark Zammitt - a Wolves season ticket holder - replied: "Shock and anger, lost for words really. Sad that still happens in this day and age."

He then says he told a steward what he had seen and Mr Arnold was taken out of the stadium.

Josh Berry, another Wolves fan, told the court he was: "Embarrassed. You don't want to see that at football, especially among your own support. It's shameful really."

Stuart Munden-Edge who was working as a close protection body guard for BT Sport's pundits on the day, said he felt the same.

"Just total disgust," he told the court. "It was not something I'd seen before, especially directed towards an individual. I spoke to the steward next to me to see if he'd seen what I'd seen, and he had. He said I was correct."

Body cam footage from the arresting police officer showed Mr Arnold saying: "I knew as soon as I'd done it that I shouldn't have done. What a stupid (expletive.)"

The case for the defence is expected to begin on Tuesday, with the trial scheduled for three days.

Jamie Arnold denies causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.