Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Throwing The Book At John Terry. 'If' He Is Guilty.

(At the time of writing this) England will line up against Spain and Sweden over the next week with no poppies adorning their shirts. Fifa have ruled that allowing such symbols being worn on a shirt would set a dangerous precedent, opening the door for “similar initiatives from all over the world” therefore damaging the neutrality of football. Fifa rules outlaw shirts carrying political, religious or commercial messages. Yeah because Umbro, Nike and Adidas aren’t commercial at all are they? Yet they will be on the majority of shirts wore over the next week.

Basically Fifa fear that wearing poppies will offend other countries, perhaps they have our German friends in mind? Of course, wearing poppies is not offensive in the slightest. It is merely a tribute to the soldiers that fought and died for our country. The fact that the England team won’t be wearing them is just another reminder of the ludicrous behaviour that Fifa seems intent on displaying on a regular basis.

What about though, offending our own citizens? Regardless of whether England shirts have a small red flower on them, will our players be lead out by a racist? Will a country as diverse as ours be represented by someone who is abusive to his own countrymen because of their race? John Terry is expected to be wearing the captain’s armband on Saturday and/or Tuesday. Whether he is guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand however is pending investigation.

Let me just state that I think it was the right decision for John Terry to be included in the England squad for the imminent matches. In football as well as in the country as a whole we have the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. To punish Terry before a thorough and accurate investigation would have been unfair and would have shown the FA buckling under pressure from the media. Even QPR chairman Tony Fernandes has agreed with this, see

I am not going to spend hours picking apart whether Terry should have made the England squad. I want to look at if we have a racism problem in football in general and what kind of consequences any guilty parties should face.

Is racism more prevalent in football now than it was 15 years ago? 25 years ago? Well no. Not as far as I can see anyway. The days of John Barnes having to use his dribbling skills to evade banana skins as well as defenders have thankfully now gone. 

Campaigns such as ‘Say No to Racism’ and ‘Stand Up, Speak Up’ have helped to isolate and somewhat diminish the problem. It still exists though, in this country and throughout Europe. We have seen over the years as some of our players have been abused when playing in Europe by fans, as recently as England’s game in Bulgaria in September.   

Fortunately it would appear that racist incidents amongst fans in the UK are fairly rare. What has not been so rare though, particularly this season, is incidents amongst players. The John Terry incident, Luis Suarez clashing with Patrice Evra. It is allegedly happening at all of levels of the game, see Blyth Spartans’ Richard Offiong accusing a Colwyn Bay player of a racist slur (

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan came out after the Terry and Suarez incidents claiming that players who had recently complained of racist abuse “should get on with it”. Whelan claimed that abuse of this sort can work both ways in the stressful environment of top-level football, with white players facing racist comments as well. Whelan almost went as far to say that when players complain of racist abuse they are “a little out of order”.  Dave is clearly not one for mincing his words.

So on this theory John Terry and others should go completely unpunished if accused of making racist taunts. And players shouldn’t mention it if they are targeted by fellow professionals or even a team of professionals because they are black. Or any colour for that matter. I don’t think so Dave. Probably best to focus on getting your team out of their eight match losing streak.

One of the big problems surrounding racist abuse amongst players is that it can be very hard to prove. Any comments made can often be in close proximity between players. Unless an official is close to what is being said or is directly caught on camera then accusations are largely hearsay.

The difference with the John Terry situation is that he was caught on camera. The racist abuse that he was alleged of was captured by Sky’s cameras and as anyone who has seen it will agree – it doesn’t look good for JT. That wasn’t meant to rhyme.

If it is proved without doubt that Terry did say what it certainly looks like he did then punishment will surely follow.  What level of punishment are we talking here though? A slap on the wrist or more?

After the incident against QPR, Chelsea travelled to Genk in the Champions League. There, their fans were heard to be chanting “Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are”. Whether this was in support of their captain, an attack on Ferdinand or anything in between is not the point. They were criticised and chastised for it. QPR manager Neil Warnock stated afterwards that he felt the perpetrators should be jailed for two years.    

Imprisoned for two years? Not like Neil Warnock to exaggerate things. Having said that quite a lot of people will agree with good old Neil. So then why not imprison John Terry for two years? It is the same principle. If anything, in his position of power he should get more time. The fans would not have chanted such things if he hadn’t started the whole thing. If he did indeed start it.

OK, well Terry shouldn’t be locked up for two years. Or even banned from football for two years. His punishment though should be proportionate to the kind of consequences fans face for such actions. Match-going fans can face extortionate bans if caught for racist abuse at a ground. Some fans have even been banned for life from attending the ground of the teams that they support.  So why should John Terry only get a fraction of the kind of retribution that a fan would face for doing the same thing? If anything as Terry abused Anton Ferdinand more directly his actions were worse than his fans. Again, IF he did actually do it.

By introducing much greater bans and punishments the FA would go substantially further to eliminating the problem of racism in football. Longer bans would also create significantly more equality on the matter.  Why on earth should supporters be treated much worse than professionals when they are carrying out the same offences.

The fact is even if the consequences for being racist in football are increased, the problem will still remain. At least for now anyway. Much like in society as a whole there will always be people who are prejudiced. The FA cannot change the views of every footballer that plays in this country.  However if they come down hard on players who are racist on the pitch then this would help to discourage people expressing their views in the public domain.

The FA would certainly be largely unsympathetic on fans and they must do the same with John Terry. IF (for the last time) he is actually guilty of the racist actions he is accused of.


  1. you thunk terry should spend 2 years in jail saying something in the heat of the moment? that is soooooo stupid

  2. If you had actually read it you would see that 'Acceptable in the 90's' does not think that Terry should be in prison for 2 years.

    "OK, well Terry shouldn’t be locked up for two years. Or even banned from football for two years."

    Good points made on the whole, if fans can be banned from grounds for life then Terry should be punished more heavily than may have been done in the past.

  3. Some people have made it their mission in life to pursue various "crimes/misdemeanors" in a way that can only be compared to The Lone Ranger(who was that masked man?)
    By building a case of racism around a clip on Youtube,against a player who has been involved in a team of which at least 50% are black (and have been for years,the team not the players) alleging a remark the recipient didn't even hear ,to my mind smacks of mountain/molehill? Get a bloody life .

  4. Well to start with it was a live Sky clip broadcast to potentially millions. Are you saying the England captain should recieve no punishment for making a racist comment towards a fellow professional in front of such a large audience?

    And anyway, the point of the post was not to villify John Terry, I am not making out he's Hitler's love child or anything. The point was to show how there is a gap in the punishments faced by fans and those faced by players and that gap is completely unfair.

  5. Nice read. So what is the punishment for someone abusing someone racially in the street? Seems the Police are investigating it too. There needs to be some sort of level set across the board for racism. It shouldn't matter if you are in the crowd, street or on the pitch. JT is just as susceptible to saying things which he may feel deep down, in the heat of the moment as anyone. Everyone is acting like they are saints but I bet half the people vilifying him say some pretty questionable things in the privacy of their own homes - the fact that he is on TV doesn't mean he necessarily has a greater level of restraint... it just means he is more likely to be caught.

    I am not condoning what he said - he should be punished but I think in line with what any normal person would face.

    Also think that it is hilarious that noone seems at all bothered that him and any other players are seen on camera using the word c*nt.... apparently that bits not a problem. I think players need to be booked by refs for foul and abusive language, it is in the rules so no harm, but refs don't have the balls, but thats a debate from another time!

  6. The whole thing is getting ridiculous. Everybody including FIFA are in on the "Say no Racism" campaign because it is Politicly Correct these days. Racism should not be tolerated, it is terrible, but it is a consciousness issue in all areas of life, not only football. What about the abuse Beckham recieved after 1998 WC, and all the players who are abused for being bald, fat (Ronanldo at Madrid received terrible abuse), gay etc!!!
    Why is that ok and racism no!!
    None of it should be ok, but of course people just jump on the PC train!!