Lord Herman Ouseley calls on governing body to be resolute and 'deal with the racial element' of what Terry said
John Terry walked away with an acquittal from Westminster magistrates court on Friday, yet the Football Association could nevertheless charge Terry with a similar offence of racial abuse, for the exact same incident. The FA is to resume its investigation into Terry's use of the words "fucking black cunt" in relation to Anton Ferdinand, which was suspended after the police became involved and Terry was prosecuted.
This toxic affair is in danger of poisoning race relations in the Premier League following many years of anti-racism progress. Several black players, including Fitz Hall and Cameron Jerome, exasperatedly questioned the verdict and on Saturday Rio Ferdinand, Anton's brother, replied "classic" to a tweet describing Ashley Cole, who gave evidence supportive of Terry, as "a choc ice". Garth Crooks, the BBC TV presenter who played for Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur through the hostile racism that enveloped football in the 1980s, called on the FA to charge Terry.
Lord Herman Ouseley, the veteran anti-racism campaigner, chair of football's Kick It Out organisation, urged the FA to be "resolute", ignore the criminal prosecution completely, and "deal with the racial element" of what Terry said. Otherwise, he warned, black players could lose faith in the football authorities' commitment to combating racism.
"I am worried that this is a defining moment for the FA, to show it is a governing body prepared to keep to a high standard on the racism issue," Ouseley told the Observer. "If this incident, and the racial element of it, is not seen to be dealt with properly, there is the potential for black players to lose confidence in the authorities and withdraw their support for anti-racism campaigns."
The likelihood of an FA charge for the racial element of what Terry said in his confrontation with Ferdinand rests on the distinction between the required degree of evidence to support a criminal conviction – proven beyond reasonable doubt – and an FA guilty decision, proven on the balance of probabilities.
The chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, ruled Terry not guilty of a racially aggravated public order criminal offence because it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Terry said those words as an insult. Terry's case, from the day of Chelsea's match at Queens Park Rangers on 23 October, when his confrontation with Ferdinand took place, to Thursday 12 July when his QC, George Carter-Stephenson, concluded his defence, was consistent. He claimed he believed Ferdinand had accused him on the pitch of using those words as an insult, and Terry maintained he was repeating them only to deny he had said them.
Of that defence, Riddle expressed scepticism in his 13-page written judgment: "Mr Terry's explanation is, certainly under the cold light of forensic examination, unlikely." About Terry's case that he repeated the words back to deny having said them, Riddle went on: "It is not the most obvious response. It is sandwiched between other undoubted insults."
Yet Riddle explained that the evidence left sufficient doubt; the film around what Terry said was obscured, the evidence of lip readers inconclusive and there were no independent witnesses who heard what Terry said.
In December, according to the FA's procedures, a three-man panel found Liverpool's Luis Suárez guilty of abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra with a racial element, although there was no film or recording at all of the words spoken and no independent witnesses who heard them. The panel decided Evra had been consistent in maintaining that Suárez had referred to his colour in the two players' heated argument during the match at Anfield on 15 October and found Suárez's account "incredible". Suárez was banned for eight matches and fined £40,000.
Ouseley said he remained thoroughly impressed with the FA for its handling of that case, but warned that its credibility had become in danger of being undermined during its interrupted investigation into the Terry episode. The FA mounted its inquiry quickly after the QPR match and Terry was interviewed by the FA's head of off-field regulation, Jenni Kennedy, five days after the game. However, when the police became involved following a complaint made not by Anton Ferdinand but a member of the public (an off-duty police officer), the FA suspended its investigation.
The course of events was then rocked by the court's acceptance in February of Terry's application to have the hearing delayed. His lawyers argued their ability to organise witnesses on Terry's behalf was seriously hampered by Chelsea's demanding season.
The delay meant Terry continued to captain Chelsea, ultimately to the FA Cup and Champions League triumphs, although he was suspended for the final in Munich. As his case was not to be resolved before the European Championship, the FA responded by telling the then England manager, Fabio Capello, that Terry could not remain as England's captain, which prompted Capello to resign. Terry was still allowed to represent the national team as a player, in Poland and Ukraine, then Capello's successor, Roy Hodgson, decided not to select Rio Ferdinand for the squad. Hodgson insisted that was for football reasons, not because of the lingering poison in the impending Terry trial, but Ferdinand's omission struck a discordant note in the FA's conduct of the affair.
The likeliest charge the FA will consider is a breach of its rule E3, which prohibits improper conduct including "indecent or insulting words or behaviour". A reference to a person's ethnic origin, colour or race is an aggravating factor. Given the nature of the confrontation and swearing, it is likely Anton Ferdinand could be charged, as well as Terry. The FA must consider, on the balance of probabilities, its view of how Terry said "fucking black cunt" in a Premier League football match, following a court's decision that it was not proven, beyond reasonable doubt, the words were said as an insult.
The FA has said it will "now seek to conclude its own inquiries". There is no sign yet of how long that will take. Read More
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