Following a four day hearing, the FA found Terry guilty of using abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference to colour or race this week. Terry’s punishment for the offence is a four match ban and a Â£220,000 fine.
The FA’s decision does not come as a surprise at all. Whilst Terry was found ‘not guilty’ in the criminal courts; due to the fact that it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the words uttered were done so with intent against Ferdinand; the FA disciplinary hearing is conducted under a different set of rules altogether; namely those of the Football Association itself.
As in any membership organisation which is entered into by members, the FA have their own set of rules which all members must adhere to. The FA rules state that the use of abusive and/or insulting words is prohibited on the pitch. By simply uttering these words, no matter the context, Terry was in breach of these rules and therefore had to be found guilty by the FA.
What is interesting for Terry following the FA’s verdict is not the immediate sanctions imposed by the FA; the Â£220,000 fine which equates to a week’s wages, is quite frankly inconsequential for a player at his level. What has been lost in this whole scenario is Terry’s international playing career, after he resigned on the first day of the hearing earlier this week; and his personal reputation, which has been dealt a further significant blow.
In addition, however, the wider effect on Terry’s commercial potential off the field is really set to suffer. The sponsorship, promotional work and ultimately his long-term plans for television or coaching work once his playing days are over, could all be jeopardised as a result of the FA’s verdict. Being tarred with the stigma this charge could create will significantly curtail Terry’s options.
This is of course commercial common sense; sponsorship contracts are used by brands to enhance their profile by association with popular and positive role models in the game; it goes without saying that any brand that is looking for brand ambassadors in the future would want to avoid association with someone who has been publicly branded a ‘racist’.
Furthermore, it is commonplace for any sponsorship or endorsement agreement to include a clause that in the event of the misbehaviour of a player, they can invoke a right to bring the agreement to an end. Reports are that Terry has already been dropped by his former boot sponsor Umbro this season, at a reported financial loss of Â£4 million per year.
This is surely only the tip of the iceberg for a player of Terry’s standing, and any sponsor involved with him may well be dusting off their agreements as we speak; turning straight to the termination provisions section.
By Daniel Draper, Sports Lawyer
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