The acquittal of the Chelsea and England footballer John Terry on a charge of racially abusing an opponent drew two immediate and opposite responses.
The first was that the case was so obviously weak and what is said on a football pitch so much reflects the heat of the moment that the charge should never have been brought. The second – voiced by many black players, among others – was that, even if the judgment was not wrong, racist language was still rife in English football, despite the largely successful banishing of racist chants from the terraces, and that it was beyond time to root it out.
We do not believe that it was wrong to bring charges. The allegations were serious and damaging; without the evidence being aired in court, the taint would certainly have lingered. Mr Terry deserved the chance to clear his name. But the critics are also partly right. What emerged from the proceedings was the prevalence of not just distasteful, but profoundly insulting and hurtful language in the game. This should give the football authorities pause to consider what more might be done to cure this disease. For it clearly is a disease, and – for all the insistence that racism in football now infects mainly central and eastern Europe – as the evidence heard in Westminster magistrates' court showed, it has clearly not been eradicated here.