John Terry and the FA – the unanswered questions

By Cressida Smart

(C) The Mirror

 

 

 

 

 

Any doubts about the veracity of the verdict by the FA panel into the John Terry racism
row were alleviated with the release of the long awaited full transcript of the FA’s
report. It gives a damning verdict of Terry’s defence that he had merely been repeating
the words of Anton Ferdinand in some puzzled way. Yet it still leaves many questions
unanswered: Was the punishment adequate? If the FA does not think this is racism, what
is? What of Ashley Cole’s evidence?

John Terry was found guilty by the FA of breaking rule E3(1) and E3(2) in his abuse of
Anton Ferdinand. Specifically, it was Terry’s use of “abusive and/or insulting words and/
or behaviour” towards Ferdinand with the further charge that he “included a reference
to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Anton Ferdinand”. He was ordered to
serve a four-game ban and pay a fine of £220,000. Earlier this years in July however, the
court of law cleared the Chelsea captain after a four-day trial in Westminster magistrates’
court of a racially aggravated public order offence. Whilst Terry did not deny using
the words “fucking black cunt” to Ferdinand, he maintained he was only sarcastically
repeating words that Ferdinand wrongly thought he had used. Howard Riddle, the chief
magistrate summed up by saying, “It is therefore possible that what he 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”.

The FA’s case hinged on whether the words were used as an insult or whether he was
repeating an allegation made to him and dismissing it. In their written report, they
dismissed Terry’s defence as “improbable, implausible, contrived”. On the balance of
probabilities, “the commission is quite satisfied that there is no credible basis for Mr
Terry’s defence that his use of the words were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful
rejection and/or inquiry. Instead, we are quite satisfied, and find on the balance of
probabilities, that the offending words were said by way of insult.”

The first point to address is the punishment handed down to Terry. Many have howled
at the match ban, comparing it to that of Suarez, arguing it should have been longer. In
his written reasons for explaining the penalty imposed on Suarez, FA chairman Paul
Goulding QC and his colleagues ruled, “It is not necessary for the FA to prove that Mr
Suarez intended his words or behaviour to be abusive or insulting. Our task is to decide
whether in our view the words or behaviour were abusive or insulting.” In Terry’s case,
the findings, presumably, were the same. He admitted, in the dock in July, that he had
used the words “fucking black cunt”. Context, as ruled in the Suarez case, was irrelevant.
The rule states that reference to a person’s “ethnic origin, colour or race” should guide
a panel into considering double the minimum four-match ban. One could argue that
perhaps Terry’s four-match ban leaves open the possibility that the panel accepted, at
least in part, Terry’s defence. Suárez was given an eight-week ban for his remarks to
Patrice Evra.

In deciding Terry’s punishment, the commission took into account Ferdinand’s victim
impact statement, which made plain he had been “badly affected” by the incident and the
high profile nature of the match. Weighed against that was the fact the insult was said
only once and the testimonials in favour of Terry by many of those involved in the game,
with his team-mate Ryan Bertrand’s seen as particularly significant.

The second bone of contention is Ashley Cole’s evidence in court, which casts serious
doubt over his witness statement. One of the chapters in the FA’s report is entitled
the ‘evolution of Ashley Cole’s evidence’. It states that the Chelsea player added at a
later date the word ‘black’ into his witness statement which outlined what he claimed
to have heard Ferdinand saying to Terry. According to the report, this had the effect
of “bolstering Mr Terry’s claim that the words that he spoke to Mr Ferdinand were not
said by way of an insult, but as repetition and forceful denial of what Mr Ferdinand had
accused him of saying.”

In new evidence that was considered by the panel but not by the court, it shows in
an interview with FA officials five days after the match, Cole saying he heard a “b-
word” but did not mention the word black. In a later emailed statement, Cole says the
word “could have been Bridge”. However David Barnard, Chelsea club secretary, later
emailed the FA after discussing the matter with Cole to add the words “black or Bridge”.

In his witness statement, some 10 months later, Barnard also claims that Cole heard the
word “cunt” being used in close proximity to the “b-word”. Yet the commission found
on the balance of probabilities that Cole’s original evidence contained neither that word
nor “fucking”. There could be serious implications for Barnard and Chelsea if this is
considered a contempt of court. Following the report, Cole released a tweet making
derogatory comments about the FA. He tweeted that the FA were a ‘bunch of twats’, he
also said that he wasn’t a liar, even though neither the FA nor anybody else used the
word liar? It now remains to be seen how the FA react to that, given that Cole is still
an England player. If the FA has any integrity at all, that will be the end of his England
career.

The third issue is that of racism. The FA, which brought the charge, actively argued that
Terry is not a racist. If the FA doesn’t consider calling someone “a fucking black cunt”
what do they consider racist? Of what need did Terry have to refer to Ferdinand’s skin
colour? Racism is vile and malevolent and has blighted many people’s lives. It continues
to do so, although great strides have been taken to reduce its incidence. Only racists and
Neanderthals would need convincing that society has to adopt a zero tolerance approach
to incidences of racism or racist insults.

If a leading member of a major private or public institution repeated the words used by
John Terry, he would be sacked. If Chelsea – who have said they will wait to see if Terry
appeals before making clear their intentions and on Saturday confirmed there will be
a “disciplinary process” with Ashley Cole – choose not to do that, what reasons will they
give for not taking this course of action? Are they happy their captain has been found
guilty of lying? Are they happy that he uses such appalling language in public? Are they

happy for this man to be their captain?

What of the fans? They too have a voice. Are they happy to have their team led by a
man who uses a racist insult? Now is their opportunity to use social media in protest
and signal their disapproval of their leader; how about #sackjohnterrynow? If they don’t,
then how can they take a credible stand on racism in public life ever again? They can’t.
There is no reason for being equivocal about racism. It will be interesting to note if any
action is taken by Chelsea’s commercial partners and sponsors such as Samsung. Are
they happy that their brand is represented by a team leader who uses racist language
towards an opponent? They shouldn’t be and they should use their considerable influence
to demand that he plays no further part in any association with their brand.

The entire incident has shamed Chelsea and England’s stance on racism. For those of us
who love football it is dispiriting, depressing and disgusting to see how football has dealt
so ineptly with this Terry affair. Calling John Terry a racist may lose the FA friends and
create enemies, but it would at least emphasise that there is no place in football or society
for racism. Change starts at the top.

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