Football in the dock as trial of England defender John Terry kicks off

Slanging matches and industrial language dominate day one of Ferdinand race case

Westminster magistrates' court

The Premier League may have established itself as the richest game on earth but yesterday in courtroom one of Westminster magistrates' court it was looking anything like the shiny, engrossing, £3bn sport beloved of sponsors and fans all over the world.

In the dock behind glass was John Terry, the captain of the European champions Chelsea and former captain of the England team. On the witness stand, Anton Ferdinand, the Queen's Park Rangers defender, and two QCs navigating their way through the "industrial language" of football with more utterances of the words "f***" and "c***" than this court will ever have heard.

If the central aspect of the Crown Prosecution Service's case against Terry was not so serious, that he racially abused Ferdinand during the game between their two clubs on 23 October last year, then at times it would have been hard not to suppress a laugh.

The allegation made by the Crown that during the course of the game, Terry, following a row with Ferdinand and a physical clash, turned back towards the brother of Rio Ferdinand and said: "F*** off, f*** off... f****** black c***, f****** nobhead [sic]". Terry strenuously denies using the words as a racial slur but says he did use them in the context of challenging what he says was Ferdinand's original allegation, on the pitch, that he, Terry, had been abusive.

Terry's words, which were examined in depth yesterday by two expert lip-readers who have studied footage of the game at Loftus Road, were uttered, he said, as a "sarcastic exclamation" in "relation to the perceived false accusation", in the opening arguments by the Crown's counsel, Duncan Penny QC.

Giving evidence yesterday, Ferdinand admitted he had goaded Terry by making reference to the latter's alleged extramarital affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-partner of Terry's former team-mate Wayne Bridge. It was this episode, and the fallout that accompanied it, that caused Terry to be stripped of the England captaincy for the first time in his career by Fabio Capello in February 2010.

In giving evidence to the court under questioning from Penny, Ferdinand admitted that he had used the allegations about Terry and Perroncel to wind up his opponent. "I said, 'How can you call me a 'c***'? You shagged your team-mate's missus. That's a c***."

If that sounded like an extraordinary exchange, then it was more than matched on a number of occasions during the day. When Ferdinand was asked to re-enact what he described as the "shagging gesture" which had accompanied his words to Terry – a pumping motion with a clenched fist – it is unlikely that Mr Howard Riddle, the district judge presiding, had witnessed such scenes in his courtroom before.

After the game, Ferdinand said he was ushered into the away dressing room by Chelsea's Ashley Cole. Terry then confronted Ferdinand with the question of whether he believed he had been racially abused. Ferdinand told the court: "He [Terry] said, 'Do you think I racially abused you?' I was like 'No'... then Ashley popped his head around the corner and said, 'Didn't you say that?'"

Ferdinand said that there would have been no question of him going to see Terry if he thought that he had been racially abused. Being sworn at was part of the game he said, but racial abuse was completely unacceptable.

Watched intently by Terry in the dock, Ferdinand said that he had been unaware of any suggestion of racial abuse from his opponent until long after the game when he joined his "girlfriend at the time" in the players' lounge at Loftus Road and she showed him a YouTube clip of the incident on her mobile phone.

George Carter-Stephenson QC, for the defence, said that Ferdinand had left his remarks about Terry and his alleged extramarital affair out of his original statement to the Football Association, given five days after the incident because he knew it would portray him in a negative light. The case continues.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test