I swear, it should not have come to this
22:24 GMT, 13 July 2012
The wrong person was in the dock this week. Much as I distrust what John Terry said, he should not have been standing there. Anton Ferdinand should not have had his character impugned on the witness stand, either.
The only individual that should have faced a legal inquisition this week was the deluded soul high up in the Crown Prosecution Service who looked at the available ‘evidence’ and somehow decided this exhibition of football’s potty-mouthed, dim-witted idiocy was worth dragging into court.
What a disgraceful farce it was. Scanning through each day’s account from Westminster was a sordid, asterisk-strewn game of sweary hangman. It was an embarrassment for the footballers concerned and, moreover, for the game itself.
Not guilty: John Terry was acquitted of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match
But it was a truly terrible own goal
for the CPS. How did they believe they would get a conviction from the
flimsy evidence they offered up Why wasn’t this entire matter left for
a Football Association inquiry to deal with
When the Crown decided to step in and
take this case out of FA hands, the perfectly legitimate response was to
assume they had additional evidence that would warrant such a
high-profile, public trial.
Surely they had found something other
than the unpleasant YouTube footage showing Terry mouthing abuse The
theory was the CPS had a previously unseen camera angle, a damning
witness statement or a revelation that would tip the burden of proof in
But they had nothing beyond the footage we had all seen — and that nobody had heard, apparently.
Whether you like Terry or not; whether
or not you believe a word he said; whatever your gut reaction is to the
sight of him shooting off his mouth, that footage in itself was never
going to be legally conclusive.
This much was clear from the off.
Terry’s explanation for the outburst was that he had merely been
repeating Ferdinand’s remarks back to him.
Stories originally claimed that sources close to Terry said he called Ferdinand a ‘blind c***’, not black.
In court, Terry argued the words
‘f****** black c***’ were used in sarcasm or a spirit of irony. The true
irony here, of course, being that the word deemed offensive enough to
warrant a court case was the only one that did not require censorship.
But despite the blizzard of asterisks
in the reports, the entire case hinged on an entirely different piece of
punctuation. It all came down to a question mark. Just one.
Terry was brought to court because,
during an angry exchange with Ferdinand, he said: ‘F*** off, f*** off . .
. f****** black c*** . . . f****** k*******’.
Only in Terry’s version there was one
crucial difference. The Chelsea captain claimed he asked a question,
saying: ‘F*** off, f*** off . . . f****** black c*** F******
While it’s hardly Wildean wit, that
question mark altered everything. It suggested he was answering
Ferdinand out of surprise at being accused of uttering a racist remark.
Without that bit of punctuation, Terry
is found guilty, loses whatever he has of his reputation and is branded
a racist. With it, his defence lawyers could trumpet his reputation was
intact. As alibis go it seems feeble. But, vitally, the court could not
Chief magistrate Howard Riddle said:
‘Weighing all the evidence together, I think it is highly unlikely that
Mr Ferdinand accused Mr Terry on the pitch of calling him a black c***.
However, I accept that it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the
time, and believes now, that such an accusation was made.
‘It is a crucial fact that nobody has given evidence they heard what Mr Terry said or more importantly how he said it.’
So the CPS failed the big question — and countless other questions along the way.
Melee: The scene outside City of Westminster Magistrates' Court was a frantic one as the world's media waited
For instance, if Ferdinand did not
hear the original racist remark allegedly levelled at him, how could
Terry have repeated it back to him
And how did the word ‘blind’ become ‘black’ in Terry’s alibi
Such lapses made the bigger question even more unpalatable. How much did that circus cost
A top Queen’s Counsel doesn’t raise a
quizzical eyebrow in court for less than 5,000 a day, not once the
whiff of a celebrity case catches the air. Throw in the instructing
solicitors, the hours of preparatory work, the CPS costs, police time,
the investigation that led to charges being made, court overheads, the
ushers, clerks and additional security required and what do we think the
A quarter of a million quid More And for what Terry can afford his chunk. But you paid the Crown’s slice of the bill.
Racism is never acceptable on a
football field, or in life, but this could have been handled by an FA
hearing in the same way Liverpool’s Luis Suarez’s case was. Sporting
bodies already have codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures. The
courts should allow them to be the first point of call.
For starters, an FA inquiry can rule on the balance of probability and dole out appropriate punishment.
Clash: Terry and Ferdinand had an ugly coming together at Loftus Road in October
A court requires a more stringent
burden of proof. So there is still a chance any FA inquiry might even
find Terry guilty, although it is unlikely.
And surely a magistrates’ court has
better uses than settling a row between two men busy accusing one
another of having bad breath or sleeping with a team-mate’s wife, with
an allegation of a racial slur chucked in
This was simply humiliating for all
concerned. Ferdinand was branded ‘too unsophisticated’ by his own legal
team to have initiated the row. While Terry seemed just as
intellectually challenged when he was asked to confirm he had been sent
off four times in his career.
‘Can you say, please, four times’ asked his QC George Carter-Stephenson.
‘Please, please, please, please,’ Terry responded, to sniggering from the court.
If British justice is about which
overpaid, under-educated footballer called the other nasty names first;
if British justice is about Ashley Cole flying in to provide a
‘character reference’ without the entire courtroom dissolving into fits
of laughter . . .
If British justice is about all of
this, then, ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have arrived in Hell and
our collective handcart has just burst into flames. What’s more, it’s
gone up with our money in it, too.
Sir Steve is my pick for Olympic ignition
My candidate to light the Olympic flame It’s simple. I’d ask a parade of British Olympian medal-winners to pass the torch along the prestigious line, made up of the likes of Denise Lewis, Mary Peters, Duncan Goodhew, Daley Thompson, Allan Wells, Dame Kelly Holmes, Sir Matthew Pinsent and others, to showcase our Olympic heritage to the world.
He's got the spark: Sir Steve Redgrave, a five-time Olympic champion, gets my vote to light the flame
Then, regardless of the fact he
finished narrowly outside a podium place at the 1952 Games, I’d have Sir
Roger Bannister in penultimate place. The first man to break the
four-minute mile deserves his bow.
And, in this masterplan, Sir Roger
would then pass the torch to Sir Steven Redgrave for our great Olympian
to have the honour of opening the 2012 London Games.
No kowtowing to empty cult of celebrity there. No ‘we are the world’ stuff, with foreign stars in the mix.
Sir Steven is Great, he is British,
and he is the pre-eminent Olympian of this nation’s times. There is no
better candidate. In fact, it is the easiest decision of the entire
Games — and I expect to see that confirmed on July 27th.
King Khan holds court of troublesome two
Amir Khan is a champion. He studies his craft, he conducts himself admirably in public and with the media, he is a man who does his sport proud.
That is why I will be watching him fight for the WBA and WBC light-welterweight belts against Danny Garcia in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Farce, not fight: David Haye and Dereck Chisora are doing damage to British boxing, not boosting it
There is a dog fight between David Haye and Dereck Chisora earlier in London. The job description says I might have to pay attention, but I’ll probably just listen on the radio.
Mainly because I’d hate to think
these two oafs will profit directly from me for rolling around like
drunks in a car park on that infamous night in Munich.
FIFA are scum on the run
FIFA are a scumbag organisation that should have been torn to shreds decades ago. This week, the shameful shower supposedly in charge of world football admitted they had been riddled with corruption for years.
Eyes off the ball: Yet more allegations were thrown at FIFA this week, but it seems little will be done
After years of obfuscation and
denial, their own report confirmed that ex-FIFA president Joao
Havelange, his former son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira, who was the head of
Brazilian football, and others took 80million in bribes.
What’s more, current FIFA president
Sepp Blatter knew about Havelange’s kickbacks and did nothing – other
than cover up the scandal. Yet the phony Blatter is still in the job.
And the saddest aspect of all is that none of us is remotely surprised.
Out of range
Glasgow Rangers will start the season in Scotland’s Division Three. It is the right decision — any sanction more lenient would have effectively condoned the financial skulduggery that propped up the Ibrox empire for years.
However, with no Old Firm fixtures
for at least three seasons and a TV deal that is sure to collapse, a
number of SPL clubs will be unable to cover their costs and may go to
Morally, the chairmen had no choice; I commend their bravery. But it still feels like a circular firing squad.
Crushed: Rangers will have to restart life in Scotland's lowest professional division
Good ol' West Ham. It’s the time of year when the east Londoners come out with their wish-list and then leak it to the media just as the season-ticket sales need a boost.
This week’s transfer mirage was Andy Carroll, with reports in many newspapers suggesting the Hammers would like to sign the England centre forward or take him on loan.
If they were genuinely trying to sign Carroll, they would probably keep it quiet, for fear of being gazumped.
And I’m sure they would like to sign Carroll. I would like to spend the night playing strip Scrabble with Kelly Brook, but it’s not likely to happen either.