If the Football Association hierarchy is honest with itself the best news it could hope for this morning is that John Terry releases a statement saying that, given the severity of the allegations against him, and the profile of this summer's Euro 2012 tournament, he is withdrawing from international football until the case is resolved in July.
The FA also knows there is precious little chance of Terry doing so. So, given his trial will not take place until after Euro 2012, the association has to take the lead and tell the England captain he must sit this one out until his case, over alleged racially abusive comments to Anton Ferdinand, is resolved.
Yes, it is hard on a footballer who has 71 caps for his country and has a right to be considered innocent until proven otherwise. Yes, precedent will be thrown in the FA's face – not least, its current fragile position that it cannot deviate from its stance that the law must take its course first. Yes, the fact that it has switched its position from the friendly against Sweden in November, in which Terry played, will be cited.
By excluding Terry until the resolution of his case, the FA will ensure that, in some quarters, it will unleash upon itself a storm of criticism. But it is the right choice for the England team and the right choice, given the severity of the allegation.
There is no presumption of guilt or innocence either way in such a decision, simply the acknowledgement that this summer England have to try to win a tournament and to give themselves the best chance of doing so they have to divest themselves of the baggage of the serious allegations against Terry.
Unlike the Crown Prosecution Service, the FA does not have to build a legal case against Terry, it can just make a decision based on what it feels is best for the team. You want to talk about precedent? Then look no further than the first time that Fabio Capello sacked Terry as captain of England in January 2010.
Then, the England manager did not sit down Terry and his former friend Wayne Bridge and weigh up the rights and wrongs of Terry's alleged affair with Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel. He did not conduct an in-depth investigation into who did what with whom and when. He made a straightforward decision that the circus surrounding Terry, largely in the media it should be said, had grown to a fever pitch and it had to be defused.
This time it is not simply the media whose interest is acute. In fact, compared to Bridgegate, the influence of Terry's fellow professionals this time has been felt much more profoundly. In Bridge's case, it was just Bridge himself who turned down a handshake. This time it was to be the whole Queen's Park Rangers team until the pre-match handshake was cancelled.
Should Terry be acquitted then he will rightly be given the platform to air his grievances at his treatment. It will no doubt be uncomfortable for the FA in the event of its excluding him from international duty in the interim. So be it. No one said that leadership was easy. This is a complex situation. There is no obvious option to take that will guarantee a smooth ride for the FA and Capello. But that does not mean there is not a right option. It has to make a decision on what it faces now.
This is a pivotal moment for English football. The allegations are simply too serious to ignore and until now the FA will have prayed for the case to be resolved in law before the summer's tournament. That has been the vain hope since the original incident with Ferdinand on 15 October. Unfortunately for the FA, that escape has passed it by.Reuse content