Rio Ferdinand is prepared to shake Ashley Cole's hand at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and that of John Terry in future as the Manchester United player seeks to make a conciliatory gesture amid the racism rows shaking the game. His brother Anton, the Queens Park Rangers defender who was racially abused by Terry, is also open to shaking hands with both Terry and Cole.
Ferdinand will start against Chelsea in the vital Premier League fixture that will be televised around the world and although Terry is suspended, as a result of his domestic four-match Football Association ban for the abuse of Anton Ferdinand, Cole will line up against him.
There had been conjecture over whether Ferdinand would acknowledge Cole in the pre-match ritual, which is designed to promote fair play and respect. To the dismay of the Ferdinand family, Cole gave evidence in support of Terry at the Chelsea captain's magistrates court trial in July, when he was acquitted of the charge of directing racist language at Anton Ferdinand in the league game between their clubs last October.
Rio Ferdinand has been fined £45,000 by the FA for appearing to endorse a tweet that described Cole as a "choc ice" – a slang term with obvious racial connotations – while Anton refused to shake hands with Terry or Cole when QPR played Chelsea at Loftus Road on 15 September.
But after another week or so of race-related controversy, with the low point coming in Serbia last Tuesday, when the England Under-21 player Danny Rose was subjected to monkey chants from the crowd, the Ferdinands have sought to make a statement that might help matters to move forward.
It has been a family decision, taken after much discussion. Rio Ferdinand would not have been prepared to shake with Cole on Sunday unless Anton were fully supportive. But rather like United's Patrice Evra and Luis Suárez of Liverpool, who put their well-publicised differences to the side for a greater good when they shook hands before the league game between their teams on 23 September, the brothers want to look to the future. Part of their thinking has been that pre-match non-handshaking sideshows cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.
There has been no disguising how they have felt over the past year, particularly towards the FA and the Professional Footballers' Association. The Ferdinands and other black players were dismayed that Terry received only a four-match suspension and as it only applies in domestic competition, he was free to captain Chelsea in their Champions League tie at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday. As part of an anti-racism action week, Terry's armband was embroidered with the slogan "Unite Against Racism".
Chelsea's players will wear Kick It Out anti-racism T-shirts on Sunday but the Ferdinands did not wear them before their matches over the weekend, together with a clutch of other black players, in protest at the direction that they feel the campaign has taken. There was a tonic, though, on Wednesday, when the PFA's chief executive, Gordon Taylor, announced a six-point plan to counter racism in the game which featured a call for tougher penalties for racist abuse, including making it potentially a sackable offence.
And the Ferdinand brothers issued a joint statement on Wednesday evening, that was carried on United's website, in which they outlined their commitment to the ongoing discussions aimed at finding a way forward.
"On the issue of Kick It Out," they said, "we would like to go on record to say what fantastic work they have done in the past regarding education and awareness. However, times change and organisations need to change with them. We are more than happy to join the discussion, privately, to make Kick It Out more relevant in its fight to stamp out racism in football.
"Although we have been left disappointed by the PFA and the FA's actions over the last year, as a family, we are committed to working with football's existing organisations towards the betterment of the game and to achieve immediate action.
"We would like to thank all the fans and the staff at Queens Park Rangers and Manchester United for their support in what has been a difficult year. In particular we want to thank [the managers] Sir Alex Ferguson and Mark Hughes. We will not be discussing publicly any issues connected with the case. We are now going to concentrate on playing football."
Rio Ferdinand can expect to encounter hostility from the Stamford Bridge crowd but Chelsea, while welcoming a passionate atmosphere, will make it clear, as always, that they will not tolerate any behaviour from the stands that crosses the boundaries of acceptability. They will reinforce the day's anti-racism message in the programme. The club continually reviews its security for big matches.
Kick it Out released their own statement, welcoming the Ferdinands' move and promising to redouble their efforts to eradicate discrimination from the game. "Kick It Out very much welcomes this statement," it said.
"We know and recognise the hurt that many people have gone through over the last 12 months, none more so than the Ferdinand family themselves.
"We will continue to work across the campaigning and diversity agenda with all partners to ensure the grievances of players are concluded fairly, thoroughly and swiftly."