July 13, 2012

John Terry trial verdict: FOUND NOT GUILTY

Cleared: Terry leaves court on Friday after being found not guilty
Although the Chelsea defender was cleared of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, what he admitted to should be censured

I first saw the incident of John Terry "mouthing off" on YouTube early on the Sunday evening. I knew Terry was in big trouble and immediately rang Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, and told him so. The way the hits were gathering pace on YouTube it was obvious a storm was brewing. By the end of the evening Sky News was showing the incident round the clock, and within 24 hours of YouTube's first broadcast, complete with subtitles, the Premier League had pulled it.

Now that the court has spoken and the Chelsea captain has been acquitted of racially abusing the QPR player Anton Ferdinand. The ordeal for Terry, though, is not over yet. The Football Association still has to consider one very important matter.

By Terry's own admission he accepts the words "fucking black cunt" were said. His lawyers successfully argued that the manner in which this was said was misunderstood. But I believe it was wrong of him to say these words under any circumstances – and though Terry has been found not to have committed a criminal offence, the FA must now decide whether the former England captain should be charged for contravening its own rules.

Players have been ringing me over the last 48 hours with major concerns over what a not guilty verdict might mean for the wider campaign against racism in football. Will the institutions push the anti-racism campaign further down the priority list? Many fear that it will take us back to the dark days of the 1980s, when racial abuse was rife. In those days I was abused every other week on the pitch by fellow professionals – many of them household names who represented their country.

If the FA don't act on the undisputed facts, and find Terry guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, a lot of good people are saying to me that there's no point in getting involved in the game at a senior level.

Among the game's administrators black professionals are almost non-existent; and things are barely any better at the managerial and coaching level.

Some players have told me that a failure to act would only endorse what they have always felt: that black people have no place in this game other than as minstrels performing on a stage.

What would be the point, for example, of ever raising a racial complaint again? The "just get on with it" brigade would continue to duck the issue.

The real problem in the Terry case began once the FA failed to take immediate action. This lack of fibre by the governing body to act instantly, when Terry gave them a statement after the verbal clash with Ferdinand, threw the entire procedure into chaos – forcing everyone associated with the game to either dive for cover or sit on the fence.

It may have appeared expedient to delay matters at the time, but once the police appeared on the scene the FA lost control of the process and the dynamic dramatically changed. The football fraternity suddenly became polarised: the dinosaurs who felt it was no more than two players engaged in a slanging match; and the others convinced Terry had gone too far.

Anton Ferdinand refused to back down even though he came under intense pressure, with accusations that he was causing the national team unnecessary embarrassment. And his brother, Rio, who would have been a selection certainty for England at last month's European Championship, found himself dropped.

What football fails to realise is that there is an entire generation of black players who feel the game has failed them. They will not stand for abuse, from either players or fans, any longer. If the Football Association does nothing, on the evidence it already has, then the impact on the game will reverberate for years to come.

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