Terry, racism and FA

File photo: The English Football Association has banned John Terry (right) for four matches for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand (left).-AP File photo: The English Football Association has banned John Terry (right) for four matches for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand (left).

What really happened that day at Shepherds Bush when, last season, Queens Park Rangers were playing at home to Chelsea? Racism is all too evident in football pitches, writes Brian Glanville.

It will be a very long time before the repercussions of the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand-FA affair die down. So many paradoxes, so much to be dissected and disputed. So serious the consequences; not that John Terry was fined GBP220,000 by the FA and suspended for four matches, but the way in which legal logic seems to have been ignored and that Terry, a bulwark of the England defence, has retired from international soccer.

What really happened that day at Shepherds Bush when, last season, Queens Park Rangers were playing at home to Chelsea? Terry admits that after a clash with the QPR centre back, younger brother of the more famous Ferdinand (Rio), he unleashed a volley of obscene racist abuse. But he has insisted and when his case came to the criminal court at Westminster Magistrates, he was seemingly given the benefit of the doubt, that he was nearly parodying what Anton Ferdinand had allegedly said to him! Meanwhile, Anton himself, who had his back to Terry at the time, insisted that he had not heard what was said!

The first salient question must be: why did the case come to a Magistrates’ Court at all, rather than being heard by the FA, who could have dealt with it on the balance of probability. Firmer evidence is demanded in a Magistrates’ Court and a seemingly bewildered magistrate decreed that he couldn’t be sure of what happened; so Terry was cleared. In Scotland, the decision of “Not proven” rather than “Not Guilty” would probably have been given.

The seeming fatuity of it all was that the case, which involved two highly paid Queens Counsel barristers dragged on for days and even had the millionaire Terry been found guilty, it would have cost him just a derisory GBP2.5 thousand, should surely never have reached criminal court at all. So why did it? Answer, ludicrously enough, because an officer of London’s Metropolitan Police, off duty and watching that match on television, said his lip-reading had seen Terry emit that volley of racist insults.

Initially we were led to believe that because the supposed offence was reported to the police, they automatically took priority ahead of the Football Association to deal with it. Which they did. But it now turns out that the police had no such automatic right, that they had gone to the FA to ask whether they could have priority in court and the FA, feebly and ineptly, had agreed. Only to initiate a further investigation, when Terry, rightly or wrongly, had been acquitted.

Were they even entitled to do so? Here we have another quandary. The constitution of the FA clearly states that once such a decision has been made in court, it has to be accepted. But hold on a moment; under that clause comes a weasel of a sub-clause declaring that in certain circumstances, the FA can indeed proceed with a commission of inquiry, which, in the event was, what they did.

Here and there, it was complained that the FA had established a “kangaroo court,” the nickname historically given to criminal proceedings whose “guilty” outcome is pre-decided.

So, after several days, Terry who had already declared his intention to abandon his England career was fined GBP220,000 and banned for four matches. There was very little sympathy evinced on his behalf but it was emphasised that when last season the Liverpool and Uruguay star Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially arguing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra; calling him a “negrito”, he was given an eight week ban but fined just GBP8,000. Presumably, it was assumed, because he was earning so much less than John Terry.

Surely in an ideal world the FA would and should have dealt with the matter, rather than criminal court. Now they have done so, Terry has been the object of ferocious criticism for the racism which the Magistrates’ Court could not establish.

It is true that Terry, as detectives are wont to say, has “form”, has time and again been involved, usually off the field but sometimes on it, such as with the absurd, spiteful foul which got him sent off at Nou Camp last season, playing for Chelsea versus Barcelona — making him, in the vernacular, a recidivist. The very opposite, despite his football prowess, of a role model for the young. But an old English saying still comes to mind: “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.”

Ironic that, while the FA was trying him, a bunch of Lazio fans attending the Europa League game at Tottenham should shamefully have jeered at Spurs’ two black players, Lennon and Defoe. For once, UEFA acted, punishing the Roman club. Which, an open secret, has a huge hardcore of neo-fascists fans whose racism and blatant anti-Semitism are all too viciously evident. And what measures have been taken to eradicate all that?

By the same token, racism is rife in countries such as Russia and Ukraine. Whose manager, soon to leave his post, Oleg Blokhin, is notorious for his racist outbursts. While the gifted Nigerian star, Peter Odemwingiea, now at West Bromwich Albion, was forced out of Lokomotiv Moscow by abusive racists. Yet FIFA has given Russia the 2018 World Cup.

As one of the first senior football correspondents to campaign against racism in English football, I am delighted to know that by comparison with a rabid past, there’s been huge improvement. Despite the Terry/Suarez affairs.