I was asked to do an interview this morning on Sky News in relation to John Terry and his appearance before the FA Disciplinary Panel. Here is a picture of me speaking to Eamonn Holmes on the Sunrise programme!
There was another twist to the tale this morning as John Terry announced that he would be retiring from International football. The timing of the statement, just hours before the start of his 2 day disciplinary hearing; where he faces F.A. charges of using abusive and / or offensive language; is interesting, to say the least.
Some are suggesting that Terry has ‘jumped before being pushed’. However, the timing could well equally be a tactical ploy. The FA may wish to make an example of the player who, as captain of the national team, should above all others demonstrate compliance with the rules. By resigning from International football, Terry may wish to remove an element of the motivation of the FA to make such an example.
It has been mooted that Terry’s representatives may make an application at the start of the hearing, on the grounds that he was not found guilty at a criminal trial, in an attempt to get the charge dismissed. Should such an application be made, however, I have little confidence that it will be successful. A subtle, yet fundamentally different question is being asked at the disciplinary hearing; in the Magistrates Court, Terry was defending an allegation that he had committed a criminal offence and the crown had to establish not only that the words were used, but an intent by Terry to use the words as a form of racial abuse. It was this intent that was not established and hence, an innocent verdict returned. The FA Rules prohibit the use of abuse, threatening or obscene language and as such, the mere uttering of the words would automatically land Terry in breach of these rules. The question of the intention of the words would only become relevant when considering punishment.
If Terry is found to be in breach of the rules, the starting point for punishment is the sanction he would have received had the incident been dealt with by the referee on the match day; in all likelihood, a red card and a 3 match ban.
The FA Panel will then need to consider any aggravating circumstances, such as intent, calling upon similar sanctions for past cases.
Should the charge be upheld and it is decided that Terry did make comments which involved race, colour or ethnicity, it is likely to have a profound effect. At a footballing level, Chelsea will come under pressure to strip Terry of the captaincy. Furthermore, if Terry is found guilty by the FA, it is quite possible that the any work he currently or has designs to undertake ‘off the field’ – ie. sponsorship, promotional work and ultimately his long-term plans for television or coaching work once his playing days are over, could be jeopardised. Being tarred with the stigma this charge could create will significantly curtail Terry’s options.