FA Ban Terry For Four Games Over Ferdinand Race Row

posted 1 Oct 2012, 14:03 by Richard Brook

Originally posted here: bit.ly/UNznxg

Chelsea skipper, John Terry will be banned for four matches and fined £220,000 after the FA found him guilty of their own charges, of using “abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour” towards QPR’s Anton Ferdinand in a match that took place on 23rd October 2011. The verdict may not however mark the end of the matter with Terry considered highly likely to exercise his right to appeal within 14 days of the decision.

Terry’s defence team appear to have focussed on what they regard as the unfair treatment of the former England captain, who lost the armband over the incident between him and Ferdinand. Terry’s case seems to have rested on his contention that he was treated unlike any other player, in that he was not regarded as innocent until proven guilty as he lost the honour of captaining his country before either the FA or the law courts had reached a verdict on the case. Indeed ex-England manager Fabio Capello – who resigned over the decision to remove Terry as skipper – and his assistant Franco Baldini, provided written statements to the defence as to how other England players on criminal charges were treated. For example current captain, Steven Gerrard, was allowed to continue representing the national team, with court charges pending for affray in 2009.

The most pertinent difference between the various examples given and Terry would seem to be, that the other offences were not racially aggravated.

When the decision was taken that the Chelsea centre-half should not continue captaining England, I wrote at the time of my heavy-hearted support for the decision. It is a fundamental principle of British justice, that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and John Terry was an automatic pick for the England team not to mention a born leader. With Euro 2012 fast approaching just months after the decision, for both moral and sporting reasons, Terry would have felt aggrieved not to be leading the nation. My support for the decision that he should not was essentially borne of the practicalities of the situation.

It was clear, as soon as the police were involved, in what was said between Terry and Anton Ferdinand, that the FA could not involve themselves properly in the matter, until the police, and ultimately the courts had allowed the legal process to complete its course. It was equally obvious that this was going to be a slow process, and that this would be exacerbated by the nature of the personalities involved. With the defendant and the likely witnesses being professional footballers, the earliest opportunity for a fair trial was after the end of the season, and indeed after the European Championships. With that in mind, it seems to me to be inconceivable that the FA could allow the country to be led by a player whose character was so in doubt. How might black teammates feel being led by him or black opposing players asked to indulge in the increasingly ridiculous pantomime of the pre-match handshake?

Terry being stripped of the captaincy was not a punishment for a man who had not been allowed to defend himself. It was an awkward political decision taken in the best interests of the England team, and football more generally, ahead of a major tournament.

Ultimately the courts did, as we know, clear Terry, so it is understandable that Terry was disappointed by the FA decision to pursue their own charges even after this. On the eve of the FA proceedings Terry decided to bring down the curtain on his international career. Terry’s retirement was a move which some speculated amounted to jumping before being pushed. Even if this is true, it should not be read as an admission of guilt given that the FA came to guilty verdicts in 99.5% of all their 2011 cases. In a statement Terry said:

“I am announcing my retirement from international football. Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honour. I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision. I want to wish Roy and the team every success for the future.”

In explicit reference to the FA’s decision to press ahead with their case, after the English legal system had cleared him Terry continued:

“I am making this statement in advance of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position untenable.”

While able to empathise with Terry, in feeling that being cleared in court should have marked an end to the matter from his point of view, I am neither surprised nor against the FA’s decision to press ahead with their hearing. The racially aggravated public order offence heard before the courts was a criminal matter and as such will have required the famous criminal standard of proof within English law, that the charge be proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

The chief magistrate hearing the July court case, Howard Riddle, said in his verdict that there was no doubt from the presented evidence, that Terry spoke the infamous words “f****** black c***”, during his confrontation with Anton Ferdinand. However Riddle found that it was impossible to be sure of what else the pair had said to each other.

Riddle continued: “It is therefore possible that what he [Terry] said was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him. In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.”

Given that Riddle’s 13 page judgement described Terry’s explanation; that he had merely repeated a phrase that Anton Ferdinand had accused him of using to take issue with the accusation, as “certainly under the cold light of forensic examination unlikely” and “not the most obvious response”.

In essence if someone said to you ‘Did you just call me a pink flamingo’ would you say a) ‘No’ or b) ‘No I did not call you a pink flamingo’?

The FA are completely within their rights to have proceeded with their charges, however harsh it might seem on a man cleared in court of law. Whereas the court’s hands were tied by the standard of proof that was required, the FA were able to act, unfettered, when examining the evidence of what happened between the two players on October 23rd 2011. Beyond this it would seem to be a fair question as to whether anyone ever has genuine cause to utter the words “f****** black c***” on a football pitch – and that is most definitely a question for the game’s governing body.

To be seen to be taking the wider issue of racism within football seriously the FA had little option, in light of the chief magistrate’s comments, but to pursue this with the full extent of its powers. Chelsea will now have to do without the influential and commanding central defender for four games, unless Terry can successfully appeal the FA’s decision.