Football's governing authorities are under pressure from black players to take action against the sacked England captain John Terry despite his acquittal yesterday on a charge of racially abusing a black fellow professional.
The 31-year-old was acquitted of a racially aggravated public order offence by the Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle at Westminster magistrates' court, after the magistrate ruled that when Mr Terry said the words "f***ing black c***" to Anton Ferdinand during a match he may not have meant it as an insult.
Mr Terry admitted he said the words to Mr Ferdinand during the game between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers in October last year, but only as a sarcastic response to Mr Ferdinand first having accused him of using the words. Mr Ferdinand denies ever having done so.
There was an instant backlash against the verdict among black players. The captain of QPR on the day that the incident took place, Fitz Hall, tweeted "Shock", and "F***ing joke", yesterday. Cameron Jerome, a black footballer at Stoke City, tweeted: "May as well go rob a bank and when I get caught just say was only banter."
The BBC pundit and former Tottenham footballer Garth Crooks led the calls for Terry to be charged by the Football Association.
Mr Crooks, one of the first generation of black footballers in English football in the 1970s and 1980s, said Mr Terry had to face action by the governing body for English football for "bringing the game into disrepute".
There were cheers at the verdict from the public gallery among Mr Terry's supporters. Mr Terry did not comment to the waiting media as he left the court but his lawyer, Dan Morrison, said outside: "The court has today acquitted John Terry of all charges. He did not racially abuse Anton Ferdinand, and the court has accepted this."
The wrong result would have wrecked Mr Terry's England career and potentially cost him a fortune in lost sponsorship deals.
Mr Crooks said: "The FA needs to decide if he has broken any of their rules – ungentlemanly conduct, bringing the game into disrepute and so on. I'm afraid this is only half-time for John Terry. This is not over.
"The world is watching this saga and it's an unedifying spectacle. I'm sure the FA will want to put this to bed before the Olympic Games start," he added. "Industrial language is used across the length and breadth of the country. No one is naive enough to think footballers don't get involved. But it's the FA's test – do they think John Terry should have said those words?
"I believe it was wrong of him to say these words – and though Mr 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 rules," he said.
In police logs read in court, Mr Ferdinand's public relations adviser Justin Rigby was said to have warned police that if Mr Terry was not charged it would be regarded by black footballers all over the country as a case of their word not being taken as seriously as their white counterparts'.
Paul Elliott, an ambassador for the anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out, said: "It's about learning the lessons and ensuring that this type of situation doesn't come into a court again."
The FA announced yesterday that it would "conclude its own enquiries" into the matter.
Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said there would now be a "searchlight" on English football.
"It has not been a very good week for football. It has been unedifying. This has festered in football for eight months. I don't want black players to feel they must be restrained [in reporting racial abuse] because of this."
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- City Of Westminster Magistrates' Court