Updated: Friday, 5th June 2020 @ 4:07pm

Ex-Man Utd star Rio Ferdinand denies kicking off with Kick It Out after 'punchbag' claims

Ex-Man Utd star Rio Ferdinand denies kicking off with Kick It Out after 'punchbag' claims

| By Luke Marino

Rio Ferdinand played down talk of a feud with anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out despite accusing the group of being ‘scared’ to gain maximum exposure in the fight against racism.

The former Manchester United defender believes the organisation failed to expose racism in the sport during John Terry’s trial for racial abuse towards his brother Anton.

Ferdinand hit back at claims that he has treated the anti-racism group and their chief Baron Herman Ouseley as a ‘punch bag’.

"I've got no personal feud with the Kick It Out organisation or Lord Ouseley or whoever," said Ferdinand, speaking at his official launch of his latest autobiography ‘#2sides’.

“As a footballer growing up in the game I always backed the Kick It Out campaigns. I've always been one of the first to put my hand up and speak out against it and for them. I never had a problem with them.

"My point was if you went out to Joe Bloggs on the street and asked what is the guy's name from Kick It Out and what does he look like, they wouldn't be able to give you the slightest answer.

"That was my whole point – exposure, tell people you're involved. Why are you scared?

"They'd been waiting for a case of this size to come around to get exposure – this is the time. Why turn away from it?

"I said 'you're a part of it, the organisation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with these guys', and they didn't.

"The time came for them to stand up and be there and be heard and be seen, and they weren't.”

Chelsea skipper Terry was found not guilty two years ago after the incident in a match between the Blues and QPR in October 2011 – although he was banned for four matches and fined £220,000 by the FA.

And Kick It Out chief Lord Ouseley told the Guardian that he was frustrated with Ferdinand’s attack on the organisation for their response in the aftermath and added they are too much of an easy target.

He said: "It rankles in every sense that it sends out the wrong message.

"Nobody can ever say a player has come to us and we have not supported them.

"Unfortunately, we are the punch bag for some people and it's easy to have a punch bag like us.

"Rio should not be attacking the weakest point."

Troy Townsend, Mentoring and Leadership Project Manager for Kick It Out, is also disappointed with Ferdinand and believes the group has shown a lot of progress.

He said: “Let’s get one thing straight: I'm proud to work for an organisation that works tirelessly to make the game we love a better place. I don't hide the fact.

“Maybe if more people believed/supported the work that we do, then the focus wouldn't just be on a t-shirt.

“I'm as visible as they come and always will be and the same can be said for all my colleagues, past and present.

“I don't need a book to tell the world that it comes from a place maybe some people don't have.

“We work hard to solve a problem that has been created by society and yet that is still not enough for some, who want us to change the world.

“Those of you in the know will know exactly what I'm ranting about in ‪#‎2sides.”

Ferdinand, a former England international, has also received criticism for not being in court to support his brother during the trial but has since hit back and defended his decision. 

“I didn't need to be there,” said the 35-year-old. "My family was there, representing every day.

"I was speaking with my brother, there all the time for my brother when he needed me. He didn't need me to be in that court."

Ferdinand left Old Trafford after a decade to go to Loftus Road in the summer, but his return to United with his new side was a disaster as they were 4-0 in Louis van Gaal’s first win as Red Devils boss.