Kick It Out has blamed "a communications breakdown" for what the Football Association has described as "substantial and serious inaccuracies" from a senior campaigner in a BBC documentary about Anton Ferdinand’s high-profile racism case against John Terry.
The FA and Kick It Out were at loggerheads on Monday night after the airing of Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism And Me, which follows the former QPR defender as he examines the aftermath of the 2011 incident.
During the programme, Troy Townsend, of Kick It Out, told Ferdinand that football’s rules prevent the organisation from speaking to victims while an investigation is ongoing and accused the game of failing to protect them. Kick It Out is funded by the FA, the Premier League and the players’ union, the PFA, and Townsend also told Ferdinand his job was “at risk” every time he spoke out against the game’s authorities.
In a statement released immediately after the documentary, the FA said its "written policy is to actively encourage the involvement of Kick It Out so that it can support victims" and said Townsend's claims about his job were "simply without foundation".
This morning, Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out Chair, expressed "profound sadness" at the impact of the incident on Ferdinand and said the organisation had "not clearly understood" the FA's position regarding victim support.
— Kick It Out (@kickitout) December 1, 2020
"The FA are correct that there is an agreed protocol enabling Kick It Out to provide such support," said Bhandari.
"Understandably, this includes provisions designed to preserve the integrity of evidence and thus maximise the prospects of a fair conclusion to the case.
"Due to communication breakdowns at our end, this has not been clearly understood at all times. Going forward, we are completely clear on that."
Townsend, however, this morning insisted he had "no reason to present false information" during the programme.
In a tweet aimed at Ferdinand, he wrote: "The honesty of our conversation is the thing that keeps me motivated. No agenda, no arrogance, just a desire to serve the game and help it do better.
"Amazing to play a small part & to speak from my experiences with no reason to present false information. Thank you Anton".
Bhandari insisted Kick It Out's ability to support victims of discrimination was "not the major challenge" to ensure people within the game recieved the right help in the aftermath of incidents like Ferdinand's.
"We only have the capacity to support 5-6 players or grassroots participants per year," Bhandari said.
"We receive over 500 complaints per year and we know that this is the tip of the iceberg. We need to find scalable solutions to this problem. In the professional game, the primary welfare duty is on clubs as the employers.
"We would also urge any player to take advantage of the counselling and support services offered by the PFA and to use their support during an investigation. We need to find solutions for the scores of weekly victims at grassroots level where hate appears endemic."
In the programme, Ferdinand is close to tears when reading a 2011 statement from Kick It Out criticising him for not commenting publicly on the incident.
Bhandari added: "I was heartened to see his interviews indicating that he wished to use his experience positively to help the football family, including Kick It Out, to learn from this experience. If the offer stands, we would love to take him up on that and listen to his views. We need to ensure that, collectively, football learns the lessons from this.
"Ultimately, this was a programme that reminds us that discrimination and hate are not just headlines. They have a lasting impact on human lives. Our collective focus as a football industry should be on how we work together to do better. I thank Anton Ferdinand for his honesty and wish him the very best."
During the programme, Ferdinand revealed guilt for not commenting publicly at the time, saying: "It eats away at me more than anything and I don't know how to get rid of it."
Terry was cleared of racist abuse in court, despite admitting to using the words "f****** black c***" to Ferdinand, but later found guilty of the same charge by an FA disciplinary hearing.
Terry, who had already been stripped of the England captaincy, was banned for four matches and fined £220,000 following the verdict.
During the programme, Ferdinand questioned the FA's treatment of himself and Terry during their investigation but the governing body stood by its processes, saying the then Chelsea captain was shown "no favouritism".