Others had made up their minds so Terry had to quit
00:00 GMT, 24 September 2012
Sometime this week at a London hotel, or in the near future via the Football Association website, John Terry will be found guilty of the racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand. Terry clearly thinks that, too. This is why he has retired from international football.
Not that he is admitting guilt. Terry will never do that, whatever the decision of the FA disciplinary panel. Others may have made their minds up about him, but Terry will continue to protest that what he said on a fateful afternoon at Loftus Road was the result of a misunderstanding in the heat of a fractious moment. We have all heard the evidence, both sides of the story at Westminster Magistrates Court. /09/23/article-2207528-13FE72BD000005DC-700_634x394.jpg” width=”634″ height=”394″ alt=”Flashpoint: The John Terry and Anton Ferdinand racism case is due to reach its conclusion this week” class=”blkBorder” />
Flashpoint: The John Terry and Anton Ferdinand racism case is due to reach its conclusion this week
Typically, one couldn’t presume guilt
with such certainty. Presumption is considered prejudicial to a fair
trial. Saying it about Terry, however, doesn’t much matter because FA
disciplinary proceedings do not aspire to the high standards of the law
courts. Criminal and civil courts make rigorous demands of prosecutors.
FA hearings don’t even require proof. In this, at least, Terry has a
It concerns the balance of
probabilities, the method by which he will be found guilty. In fact, it
is on the balance of probabilities that we can make assumptions
concerning the outcome of Terry’s hearing. In 2011, there were 473 FA
disciplinary cases with a conviction rate of 99.5 per cent. That is what
happens when the folk doing the prosecuting get to appoint the judge.
At those odds, Terry has the same
chance of getting off as he does of flipping heads in a coin toss eight
times in a row. He will continue fighting to clear his name, but also
knows the reality. To borrow a line from comedy shrink Frasier Crane,
Abe Lincoln had a brighter future when he picked up his tickets at the
The hearing begins on Monday morning, but
weeks have already been spent in legal argument. The reason such time
has elapsed since Terry’s charge is that his counsel have been
challenging the make-up of the panel. Now only the chairman is the FA’s
man. The rest are independents, including former Blackburn Rovers
midfield player Stuart Ripley.
Yet disillusionment at the process
remains and has been the catalyst for Terry’s decision regarding
England. Rumours have been circulating for weeks that he was ready to
make this move. Only this week, however, was his mind made up. And here
is the FA rule that did it.
Legal verdict: Terry was found not guilty at Westminster Magistrates Court in London in July
Paragraph 6.8: ‘Where the subject
matter of a complaint or matter before the Regulatory Commission has
been the subject of previous civil or criminal proceedings, the result
of such proceedings and the facts and matters upon which such result is
based shall be presumed to be correct and the facts presumed to be true
unless it is shown, by clear and convincing evidence, that this is not
In other words, unless compelling
submission to the contrary emerges, the evidence and result of a civil
or criminal trial is taken as the last word. Terry believed that by
citing this regulation, his hearing would be thrown out. He was wrong.
The case goes ahead. Sensing the FA’s determination, even in defiance of
their rulebook, Terry withdrew from international duty. He is 31. There
will be no going back.
No doubt the FA will claim that by
admitting using racially charged words in Westminster Magistrates Court,
Terry has moved the investigation along. The complexity around this
case from the start was its inconclusiveness. Was Terry not guilty or
not proven, having admitted the caustic address
The FA are now eradicating
complication, because certainty is no longer required. Indeed, to be
found guilty Terry does not even have to be proved to have acted in a
racist way. Even if the panel were to accept Terry’s explanation that
he was merely using racist language in order to deny using racist
language that could justifiably be classed as guilt. The balance of
probability would certainly find against Terry.
So is it fair The FA point out that
such rulings are not confined to football. Medical professionals can be
struck off on probability, too. Yet while malpractice carries a loss of
professional reputation it does not contain the public ignominy of
being marked as a racist. For example, name the doctor struck off for 20
years of sex abuse in February this year. Navin Zala.
Now name the former manager of
Manchester United who made racist remarks about Marcel Desailly eight
years ago and has barely worked since.Ron Atkinson. Easier, wasn’t it
Long wait: Terry (here calming down Stoke's Jonathan Walters on Saturday) will discover the FA's decision this week
Balance of probability therefore
becomes a more controversial method of conviction the more serious the
accusation. The problem is that a heinous offence, racism, is subject
to the same FA process as a lousy tackle. Disciplinary hearings have
evolved this way because, when ruling on live events, looser standards
Last week, Andy Wilkinson of Stoke
City was, rightly, banned for three matches after being found guilty of
violent conduct. Unseen by referee Mark Clattenburg, he elbowed Mario
Balotelli during a match with Manchester City. Nobody can know if
Wilkinson did this deliberately, indeed Stoke manager Tony Pulis says it
was unintentional, but if the FA had to debate the motivation of every
unsavoury incident, convictions would be so difficult to obtain that the
game could descend into lawlessness. So a hearing decides that, on the
balance of probability, a player has acted in an inexcusably violent
manner, and punishes accordingly. Fair enough.
Wilkinson’s life and long-term career,
however, are unaffected by his misdemeanour. He serves his ban and moves
on. Nobody calls for him to be barred from the Britannia Stadium.
Nobody insists that his international career, if he had one, should be
It is different for Terry. All manner
of complications await when his guilty verdict is announced. His
international career is already gone. Some now think his club future
could be affected because his very presence at Stamford Bridge will
contravene Chelsea’s ground regulations. At the very least, it is
argued, he will be unable to continue as captain.
Of course, some of this extrapolation
is far-fetched. Banning Terry from Stamford Bridge, for instance. He was
found not guilty of using racist language in Westminster Magistrates
Court in July, and the club could reasonably argue that this ruling
takes precedence. Also, footballers do not have to conform to the same
standards of behaviour as fans. Kicking an opposition supporter while
situated in the main stand would result in ejection and perhaps a
lifetime ban; kicking the opposition’s striker when he is through on
goal might earn a pat on the back from a grateful manager. The
punishment is a free-kick, maybe a card. You see the difference.
Grudge: Ferdinand (left) snubs Terry's hand before the game at Loftus Road earlier this month
No doubt, though, Terry’s conviction
will be hugely problematic. To have a captain who has been found to use
racist language — even by implication and by a governing body that is
basically making up the rules as it goes along — would damage Chelsea’s
This is mighty stuff, with mighty
ramifications, to simply be left in the realm of probability. Yet the FA
has a lot riding on the outcome, too. ‘These are my principles and if
you don’t like them, well I’ve got others,’ said Groucho Marx. It is
much the same at the FA these days. The chairman should retire at 70,
although now moves are afoot to override this complication when David
Bernstein becomes a septuagenarian on May 22 next year. As for rule 6.8,
the FA presses on regardless and hopes, no doubt, that Terry does not
challenge the process further in arbitration.
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
Usually, the governing body run a mile
from potentially costly legal proceedings — it took them 23 years to
apologise for their role in the Hillsborough tragedy, no doubt because
it was felt an admission of partial culpability might leave them open to
prosecution — so why run this risk over Terry
Clearly, they have a principled stance
against racism to uphold, and there is considerable outside pressure to
take the matter seriously. On this, the FA want to be seen as
Yet there is also vested interest. The
FA lost the England captain, and from there the England manager, Fabio
Capello, in a tournament year over this case. Bernstein clumsily
isolated Capello by stripping Terry of the captaincy without prior
consultation and if that episode then concluded with the player’s
not-guilty verdict from the Chief Magistrate, the chairman might look to
have mishandled the situation.
A guilty verdict at an FA disciplinary
hearing is the last-minute, extra-time winner. See, we were right all
along. We might have made a stooge of our manager, we might have set
fire to our rulebook, but we got there in the end. /09/23/article-2207528-15182B42000005DC-715_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Given the boot: Terry Brown” class=”blkBorder” />
Given the boot: Terry Brown
The day AFC Wimbledon won promotion to the Football League, Terry Brown, the manager, stood in a corridor at the City of Manchester Stadium and contemplated the future. He had earned promotions in three of the previous five seasons, but he knew this last one, via a play-off, was a game-changer.
'I need to be realistic,’ he said. ‘How far can this model go There isn’t a club that has trod this path. Not one where I can say to people, “Yes, that’s it — that’s how we should do it”.’
Wimbledon stayed up last year but then started this season poorly. Their first seven matches yielded four points, but they had a solution. They sacked Brown.
Wimbledon subsequently won on Saturday. Their opponents, Wycombe Wanderers, immediately sacked their manager Gary Waddock. In the big league, it seems, one model is very much like another.
Clear as mud
The Portsmouth Supporters Trust still live in hope of being given preferred bidder status in the battle for the club.
It would be very interesting were the fans to become the masters and have access to the financial records of previous failed regimes.
If so, we might be able to get to the bottom of who has really controlled Portsmouth since the financial collapse began — and precisely what they got out of it.
Rugby short of gain line
Serious errors have been made in preparation for the Rugby World Cup. The Rugby Football Union guaranteed the International Rugby Board 80million from the tournament, but must attract 2.9m in ticket sales to achieve that margin.
Their only hope is to utilise larger capacity football grounds, but, while some clubs previously expressed willingness to co-operate, no contracts were signed or agreement reached with the Premier League.
Now football’s authorities say a firm commitment cannot be made until the 2015-16 fixture list is published, meaning arrangements could only be finalised three months in advance. Government intervention may be required.
Amusing, isn’t it, that for all the sneering that goes on, yet another sport cannot make its sums add up without football’s co-operation.
Were you watching, Michel
It was another grand week for UEFA president and professional dope Michel Platini.
He sat in the directors’ box at White Hart Lane, while the six match officials that are his brainchild ruled out two perfectly good Tottenham goals, and the Lazio supporters directed monkey chants at Tottenham’s black players, safe in the knowledge that the worst that could happen, by precedent, was a 16,000 UEFA fine.
Many in his position would have felt rather embarrassed; but that would require a degree of self-analysis with which Platini is unfamiliar.
Professional dope: UEFA president Michel Platini (centre) at White Hart Lane last week