John Terry denied a legal double but court's verdict will trump FA's
The fine is steep. The ban, however, could have been a lot worse
Cleared in a court of law, but found guilty by the Football Association. It is rather like choosing between winning the Champions League or the FA Cup, as Chelsea did last season. Whatever the repercussions of yesterday's judgment, John Terry will know that in terms of his reputation, the greater prize, the equivalent of the Champions League, was the not guilty verdict in Westminster magistrates' court.
Had Terry been found guilty in July of the racially aggravated abuse charge against him, his reputation would have been all but destroyed. He could not have been described as a racist per se, senior judge Howard Riddle was clear about that, but he would have been guilty of having made a racist comment, a stain that would be difficult to wash off.
The truth is that the FA charge will matter much less to Terry. Anyone with the slightest understanding of the procedure will know that the burden of proof in court was the criminal standard – beyond reasonable doubt – while with the independent regulatory commission at Wembley it was the civil standard, the balance of probabilities. Terry might not have been able to do the legal double, but Westminster will always trump Wembley.
What next for Terry? The fine is steep, and will hurt a man who has always sought to maximise the value of his contracts and endorsements despite his considerable wealth. The ban, however, could have been a lot worse. Potentially he will be back by the end of next month if he accepts the FA's punishment and in the meantime he will play in two high-profile Champions League games in Denmark and Ukraine where he will be right at the centre of attention.
Terry will wait until he receives the full written judgment from the commission before he makes his decision whether or not to appeal. The contents of that judgment will be revealing but it is worth bearing in mind that little could be as excruciating as the level of disclosure he was forced to go through in court in July with his explanation of the "shagging [Wayne] Bridge's missus" jibe and the songs sung about his mother.
It is a hunch that he may decide to take the Lance Armstrong approach, opting against appealing but still protesting his innocence and expressing a desire to bring the process to a close. Certainly, to his supporters, that would not be an admission of guilt, simply further evidence to stoke their belief that the process is flawed.
By nature, Terry is not the type to give up even though his legal bills will be enormous. He has proven himself to be extremely durable and he may feel that to accept the commission's verdict is unacceptable.
However, his greatest fear, that a guilty verdict in court could leave his position at Chelsea vulnerable is no longer a concern. He has had the backing of the club all the way. The chairman, Bruce Buck, accompanied him to Wembley for every day of the hearing, just as he was in court for the full five days. Even if Terry accepts the commission's verdict, his position at the club is not in doubt.
Terry has one year left on his contract after this season and he will doubtless be thinking soon that he would like to extend that deal. For supporters of the club, it is a no-brainer. He is the most successful captain in their history, and a man they believe has been persecuted unfairly. Yesterday's verdict may have gone against Terry but he will not consider that to be catastrophic, as long as he can portray himself as the man who won the big one in July.
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