The year long saga of player racism in English football came to something of a conclusion yesterday, as the English FA sanctioned Chelsea captain John Terry over racist comments made to QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
The defender had been caught calling Ferdinand a “f**king black c**t” on TV footage during a match almost a year ago. The FA gave Terry a 4 match ban and a €275,000 fine.
The case, along with that of the abuse of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra by Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, has led to a year of bitter recriminations and division amongst some players.
Suarez was banned for 8 matches and fined €50,000 by the FA last year after claiming that that he did not understand ‘negrito’ to be a term of racial abuse.
Terry had the England captaincy taken away from him before Euro 2012 and retired as an England player on the eve of the FA hearing this week.
Earlier this year he faced a criminal court which found him not guilty of racial abuse. Terry successfully argued that he had used the offensive words merely to repeat what he thought he had been accused of by Ferdinand.
Ferdinand said that he did not know the words had been used until he was told in the changing room after the game.
Disparity in bans
The disparity between the Suarez and Terry bans for similar offences has led to widespread comment and dismay amongst footballers and commentators.
QPR midfielder Joey Barton called the punishment a “shambles”, saying the FA should be “embarrassed”, claiming a major discrepancy between a 12-match suspension he received for violent conduct this year and Terry's penalty.
Barton said that by the “FA's perverse reckoning” he would have “got less of a ban for racially abusing the Man City players than tickling them like I did”. He added: “In what circumstances can that be right?”
Former England captain Gary Lineker also questioned the length of Terry's ban. “The FA find John Terry guilty and give him a four-match ban and 220K fine. Just one game more than a regular red card?”
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore also both questioned the length of the ban. Wright said “It doesn’t make sense”. Collymore said “This will not serve as a deterrent”.
Former FA executive director David Davies said the case had, “Gone on far too long. It should never have been allowed to drag on for a year”.
Support for Terry
Amongst those supporting John Terry have been Jose Mourinho and Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole.
Cole told the criminal court he thought the prosecution was a waste of time and Mourinho, his former manager at Chelsea, insisted the defender is “not a racist”.
“Probably he had a racist comment or attitude against an opponent. Sometimes in football we do things the wrong way. If he had that reaction he should pay but please don't say he's a racist.”
Women’s groups and campaigners have pointed to the casual misogyny highlighted by the case as the players abused each other by referring to womens genitalia.
Jenni Murray, a presenter on BBC Radio 4, asked in a debate on misogyny in football, “why do sexism and misogyny go unchallenged?”
German activist Nicole Selmer recently asked, “Why is it that using the C word is such a common way to debase a man that it is not even worth a newspaper comment let alone an explanation?”
“It’s about how football now moves- on”
Herman Ouseley, Chairman of Kick It Out believes the game has to move on now he told the BBC: “This is not about recriminations. It's about how football moves forward from here after it has spent 11 months going through the wringer.
“People are trying to make the game a better place to be. Seven million people play on a regular basis and we want them to play in an atmosphere of no abuse.”
Terry has 14 days to decide whether to appeal against his punishment, which will only come into effect once the outcome of any appeal is known.