'There is no credible basis for Mr Terry's defence'
Within the FA's 63-page ruling are several damning judgements. Robin Scott-Elliot answers the questions left by the affair
Saturday 06 October 2012
Q. How damaging is this for John Terry?
A Three words are used on page 33 of the Football Association 63-page ruling to sum up part of Terry's evidence: "improbable, implausible and contrived". The Chelsea captain has been cleared in court of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand but his reputation may prove irreparably harmed by the findings of the three-man independent disciplinary commission, chaired by Craig Moore QC.
In Terry's favour, the ruling states it is "not the FA's case that Mr Terry is a racist". The FA's QC Jonathan Laidlaw, in prosecuting, said the abuse Terry directed at Ferdinand was "perhaps an almost unconscious stream of invective, delivered in anger, and without thinking through the consequences".
The ruling also points to a number of factors in Terry's favour when it came to settling a sanction (more of which later), but otherwise it is a damning judgement, one that finds Terry used the term "f***ing black c***" as an insult and finds "no credible basis for Mr Terry's defence".
It states Terry did not hear Ferdinand use the word "black" or any word that might have led him to believe Ferdinand was accusing Terry of racially abusing him. It queries Terry's entire defence, even suggesting his body language and his facial expression during the incident did not fit with his version of events.
"The Commission is quite satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that there is no credible basis for Mr Terry's defence that his use of the words "f***ing black c***" were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful rejection and/or inquiry. Instead, we are quite satisfied, and find on the balance of probabilities, that the offending words were said by way of insult."
Q. Why did Terry not give evidence?
A Terry's legal team, led by George Carter-Stephenson QC, believe the FA should never have brought a charge against Terry once criminal proceedings were settled. Terry was cleared by a chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, in July. There were two pre-hearing sittings in front of Moore for Terry's team to outline their reasons that the FA should not have a "second bite of the cherry". Much revolved around the FA's rule 6.8 which states that findings of civil or criminal proceedings "shall be presumed correct". But Moore, who is independent of the FA, decided there was a case to answer, in part because of differing standards of proof required – Terry's court case was criminal and there is a lower standard applied to civil proceedings or a matter such as this. This was the FA's "first bite". Once those pre-hearings were finished, and on the eve of the hearing proper, Terry announced his retirement from international football. A decision was made that he would not give evidence and leave the panel to use what he had said in court, as well as what the magistrate had said of him being a "credible" witness. It was for the FA to prove the case. In the event his not giving evidence made no difference to the outcome.
Q. Why was Anton Ferdinand not charged for abusing Terry?
A The QPR player admitted using abusive words and behaviour to Terry but Rule E.3(1) is for conduct aimed at a match official or a third party, such as a spectator – when directed at another player the FA tend not to take retrospective action. It was because Terry's behaviour activated E.3(2) with use of racial language that a misconduct charge was brought against him. In its conclusions the commission notes that Ferdinand "has been badly affected by the incident".
Q. What was the 'new' evidence produced?
A Two key points were raised. First, Terry's red card in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona was suggested by the FA's QC as another example of him not being truthful as to events on the pitch. Terry, it was said, altered his version in the aftermath of his dismissal for kneeing Alexis Sanchez. The commission rejected that but accepted it might in parts undermine the character statements given in Terry's favour. It is the "evolution of Ashley Cole's evidence" that is the most startling part of the ruling. The evidence of Cole and David Barnard, Chelsea's secretary, is called into doubt, particularly over when the word "black" was used.
Q. Why was Terry banned for four games when Suarez got eight?
A It is the use of "black" as an insult that earned Terry his ban. Suarez received a longer ban because he used a racial term a number of times. The fine is worked out according to a player's salary, which is why Terry received a larger penalty. In Terry's favour was his previously "exceptional" disciplinary record and supporting statements from a number of black players. The ruling repeated "Mr Terry is not a racist" in reviewing its sanctions.
Q. What now for Terry? Will he appeal?
A Terry received the report on Thursday and has 14 days to decide whether to appeal. If he does, a new independent panel will quickly be convened – the process should not take more than another couple of weeks. If Terry does not appeal there are unlikely to be any further FA charges.
"There is no credible basis for Mr Terry's defence that his use of the words...were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful rejection and/or inquiry... The offending words were said by way of insult."
"There are further aspects of Mr Terry's defence that the Commission finds improbable, implausible and contrived , and which serve to underline and reinforce our decision."
"A much more plausible explanation is that Mr Terry was angry at Mr Ferdinand's taunting and provocation of him, angry at the way the match had gone, and angry at the way in which it seemed likely to end."
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