Football Association looks guilty of double standards in treatment of John Terry
English game's ruling body looks guilty of double standards in treatment of former England captain over racism charge
The high-profile court hearing and the independent trial have come and gone and the verdicts given – but how do you find the accused, John Terry Chelsea’s controversial warrior and former England captain? Is he guilty or not guilty of racism and bringing the game into disrepute?
Despite a criminal court finding him not guilty of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand, and then on Thursday an independent Football Association (FA) panel finding him guilty of the same charge, we the jury remain firmly out and confused.
Terry was cleared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in July of racially aggravated public behaviour. His legal team then tried to fight this week’s FA racism charge on the grounds that the governing body’s own rulebook struck out its case. FA rule 6.8 states that the results of relevant civil or criminal proceedings are “presumed to be correct and the facts presumed to be true” by FA regulatory commissions.
But there is a proviso in the last sentence of the FA rule, which states: “… unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that this is not the case.”
Clearly, the FA believed it had sufficient evidence to convict Terry – it did not elaborate – and subsequently ban him for four matches and fine him £220,000 (HK$2.76 million), a week’s wage. Terry, 31, said he was disappointed the FA had reached a different conclusion to the court of law.
His “people” have now asked the FA for written reasons about how it arrived at a different judgment from that of the criminal court based on the same evidence. What is fact is their client has got off incredibly lightly.
The FA, wanting to be seen to be stamping out the vile spectre of racism, has merely banned Terry for one match more than the three handed out automatically to any player who receives a red card.
Terry is likely to respond by lodging an appeal, however, and will be allowed to play until the outcome of the next stage in this hideously long, dark and embarrassingly shambolic 11-month saga.
Will Chelsea play him at the Emirates against Arsenal today? His club is also keen to be seen in the vanguard against racism. But Terry draws much water at Stamford Bridge and it will be interesting to see if the board stands by their man, just as he has stood tall during many memorable games of football.
Many are asking why Terry’s punishment is so much less than the eight-match ban and £40,000 fine handed down to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez after he racially abused Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
In what way was the Liverpool player’s racial abuse so much worse than Terry’s, goes the argument? It’s a valid query that needs to be answered if the FA and the game are going to emerge from the racism mire with anything less than a passing grade in how it handles discipline and discrimination.
Surely it should be a simple black and white case, if you’ll excuse the expression: you either racially abused someone or you didn’t.
And if you are found guilty, then you receive the one punishment that fits all racial crimes – a season-long ban, if not for life. Any conscientious fan worth their season ticket would wish to see Terry sent packing for a lot longer.
The seemingly muddled, drawn-out messages given out by the two very different judgments means the governing body has failed in its prime duty: to protect the reputation and honour of the game.
Love him or loathe him, nobody divides opinion like Terry. On the pitch, he appears the consummate footballer, a crusading brick in defence who personifies the jingoistic Shakespearean rallying calls, reliably stiffening the sinew and summoning up the blood whether he is wearing three lions or just one on his shirt.
He is forever loyal (his off-pitch shenanigans are another matter) and dedicated to the cause, clearing the lines, throwing himself head first in front of shots, suffering knockouts and injuries but soldiering on until the final whistle, occasionally scoring, too.
He has served his club and country well and if he was not now so sullied, you would wish for the iconic head-long block attempt against Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup to sum up the man.
But few can hold such an image for long and he will be remembered for all the wrong reasons and held up as a prime example of how not to behave.
No matter how well you serve country, club and the great game, racism will not be tolerated and the guilty perpetrators should be dealt with swiftly and harshly.
After a summer of admiring the decorum of Olympians, many football fans are disgusted by the behaviour of their EPL stars. Questions are now being raised about the petulance of footballers and their attitude towards their peers and officials. Why is the governing body so ineffective at making players behave honourably?
Terry is not the only one in the dock this weekend. The FA and the game itself are there with him.