Earlier today, Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle found John Terry not guilty of racially aggravated assault and he was cleared of the charge. His week-long trial had sparked an incredible amount of emotional debate amongst fellow and rival supporters; understandable given the seriousness of the implications and potential consequences of either verdict. Safe to say, consensus wasn’t even close to being found. It was one of those issues where you could quite easily put half a dozen reasonable, rational people in a room and they could all come up with different points of view, regarding what would be fair on John; what the club would be obliged to do; what The FA would be obliged to do and how us supporters of CFC would be obliged to feel, all in the event of ‘guilty’ verdict.
I doubt anyone will take much convincing here when I say how relieved I am to write the words, NONE OF IT MATTERS AT ALL! We can all move on as though nothing ever happened, because that’s exactly what happened – nothing. Ashley Cole was completely right when he said (under oath) that this trial should never have gone to court. The statements made in court this week by players gave clear indication as to just how severely footballers are abused and insulted by each other every game. I doubt any non-footballer in the courtroom had ever heard the word “c**t” so many times in one week, in their entire lives. One of two things obviously happened. Anton Ferdinand bought race into the matter, trying to aggravate Terry, or (more likely) Terry had mistakenly thought Anton had bought up race and sarcastically laughed off the suggestion. Either way, it’s a joke that the matter went as far as it did, and ultimately it was nothing but a waste of British tax payer’s money.
Quickly after the verdict was given, The FA announced they would be running their separate investigation into the affair. I understand why, but this still bothers me a bit. How do they expect to prove what the CPS couldn’t – they certainly aren’t going to have any more evidence to use. If they came out and handed a ban to John Terry what does that suggest? That you only have to be possibly guilty of racial abuse to receive a suspension? At least if a ban is handed out, Chelsea will be able to defend their player with a Crown Court ruling as their defence. In my opinion, what is fair and what is right at this stage would be for The FA to quickly come to the conclusion there isn’t sufficient evidence to issue a ban and racism clearly isn’t something John Terry needs to be warned against. They should also hand him back his England captaincy. Gerrard did an excellent job at the Euros but looking forward – Terry is the more automatic selection for the team in the World Cup qualifiers, he’s also the more articulate and experienced leader off the field. For me, it’s an easy decision.
Regarding where this situation leaves Anton Ferdinand, I do feel to some extent, he is owed some credit. He honestly admitted he hadn’t heard John Terry shout anything racial (when it would’ve been very easy to lie). Also, to reluctantly give evidence in the name of what you think is right (misguided or not) is an admirable thing to do. One thing is clear now though – Anton Ferdinand was not the victim of this situation, John Terry was. John was the one who had his name dragged through the mud, who was taunted and insulted relentlessly by opposition fans and he was the one who had to give up the England captaincy he loved having so much – and it was all for nothing. He wasn’t guilty and yet still had to suffer for 8 months the treatment of a convicted criminal. Therein lies the reason we love JT so much though – even with the weight of this trial looming he still managed to have one of his best seasons in a Chelsea shirt and was fantastic for England in the summer as well. The man has an impenetrable zone. His ability to play through adversity and under such scrutinising pressure is the mark of a great sportsman and it’s a shame public perception of him prevents it from being appreciated the way it should.
In case you haven’t seen it already, here is a statement released by Chelsea FC:
‘Chelsea Football Club notes and respects Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle’s decision to clear John Terry of the charge against him. We are pleased that John can now focus on football and his pre-season preparations with the team.’
Clearly we’re not messing around. This was the bare minimum to expect from Chelsea, the laconic nature of the statement clearly demonstrating a desire to quickly move on, which is probably sensible.
Finally, I think it’s important to realise that a victory for the game did occur today. Some journalists have expressed concerns over damage done to the ‘kick it out’ campaign but even if that is the case, convicting an innocent man is not a fair substitute. I see no reason why this trial should deter a player who actually has been racially abused, from reporting it to officials. Odds are if in the future a player doesn’t report such an incident, they wouldn’t have anyway, regardless of whether Terry was convicted or not. Nobody is at fault for any negative repercussions of this trial. The outcome was fair and justice has been delivered.
Now. Off to America.