Former England captain John Terry was found not guilty of racially abusing fellow player Anton Ferdinand on Friday after a five day case which cast a spotlight on racism in football and could have had a huge impact on his career.
The 31-year-old Chelsea captain was in Westminster Magistrates’ Court to hear chief magistrate Howard Riddle read his verdict.
The high-profile case, focusing on foul language from both players during a Premier League game last October, triggered the resignation in February of England’s Italian manager Fabio Capello after the FA decided to strip Terry of the captain’s armband for Euro 2012.
Terry had denied committing a racially aggravated public order offence when he had an expletive-littered exchange with Ferdinand on the field of play when Chelsea visited QPR’s Loftus Road ground.
Although, in evidence, he admitted using the highly offensive words, he maintained he was sarcastically repeating what Ferdinand mistakenly thought he had said.
During cross-examination, Ferdinand agreed he had sworn at players in the past and been on the receiving end himself.
He said he was angry at Terry seeking a penalty call and there had been some barging on the pitch.
He had also alluded to an alleged affair between the Chelsea player and the ex-girlfriend of former England team mate Wayne Bridge.
Terry had been stripped of the England captaincy before the 2010 World Cup following those allegations.
Allegations of racial abuse cast a shadow over the Premier League last season, with Liverpool’s Luis Suarez banned for eight matches for abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during another Premier League match last October.
That case was dealt with by the FA rather than going to court.
“The very serious allegation at the heart of this case was one of racial abuse. It was our view that this was not “banter” on the football pitch and that the allegation should be judged by a court,” said Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London.
“The Chief Magistrate agreed that Mr Terry had a case to answer, but having heard all of the evidence he acquitted Mr Terry of a racially aggravated offence. That is justice being done and we respect the Chief Magistrate’s decision.”
*Football will pay a heavy price in the fallout from the John Terry trial after the Chelsea defender was found not guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand on Friday, according to a Mail newspaper report.
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor admitted ‘the searchlight’ is on football after the court case brutally exposed the vicious verbal exchanges which took place on the pitch.
Taylor called for black players to come forward if they feel a complaint of racism needs to be made in the future, adding: ‘I hope black players do not feel restrained in light of the verdict. Everyone must be vigilant. The players are role models whether they like it or not and they must behave accordingly.’
The FA, who have been monitoring the criminal trial, will examine their own case this week with a view to charging the pair with misconduct after their infamous exchange.
Terry was stripped of the England captaincy after he was charged with calling Ferdinand a ‘f****** black c***’ in the 83rd minute of Chelsea’s defeat at Loftus Road last October.
Taylor added: ‘It has been an unedifying week for football and there is no doubt that the searchlight is on our national sport. We must reinforce the Respect campaign because the image of the game has been tarnished this week.’
Former Manchester United and Tottenham striker Garth Crooks claimed Terry will now be under examination from the Football Association, despite his criminal acquittal.
Crooks said: ‘He’s still under investigation by the FA based on what he’s admitted — saying those words. I’m afraid for John Terry this is only half-time. This is not over.
Incredibly, the FA will determine whether Terry, who has twice been deposed as skipper of the national team, can now be considered for the captaincy once again.
The FA will meet next week and instruct a QC to examine the judgement of chief magistrate Howard Riddle before deciding whether to charge Terry and Ferdinand.
Terry walked away from court after Riddle’s exhaustive judgement declared: ‘Weighing all the evidence together . . . I accept it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the time, and believes now, that such an accusation (of racism) was made.
‘The prosecution evidence as to what was said by Mr Ferdinand is not so strong. Mr (Ashley) Cole gives corroborating (although far from compelling corroborating) evidence on this point.
‘In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.’
At the request of the Crown Prosection Service, the FA waited until the court came to a conclusion before continuing with their own enquiries.
Ferdinand and Terry’s witness testimonies in court were riddled with expletives and it is likely that the evidence will be used to charge them with misconduct.
The QPR defender admitted to using a fist-pumping action to rattle Terry over his alleged affair with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend and the Chelsea skipper responded by calling him, in context, a ‘f****** black c***, f******* k*******’.
A separate race charge could also follow for Terry, but it is unthinkable for the FA to pursue the England defender after a criminal court delivered a not-guilty verdict.
The game’s governing body released a short statement, saying: ‘The FA notes the decision in the John Terry case and will now seek to conclude its own enquiries.’
Terry walked free from court just after 2.30pm on Friday, but not before his QC George Carter-Stephenson put in an application for the public purse to foot the Chelsea skipper’s £1m-plus legal bill.
The astronomical bill has been mounting ever since Terry was initially accused of abusing Ferdinand
The financial aspects are for the court to consider but that was the furthest thing from Terry’s mind when he was acquitted after a lengthy judgement was read out by Riddle.
Ferdinand, as his PR agent Justin Rigby warned police in evidence read to the court, may now opt to take out a civil action. In court, it emerged that Rigby had told police that if Terry was not charged with a racially aggravated crime it could be turned into the wording of ‘a black man against a white man’.
There were some undignified celebrations in the public gallery from members of Terry’s family, who whooped with delight and punched the air just yards away from the Ferdinand family.
Anton’s brother Rio Ferdinand, who curiously tweeted that he had just been watching his favourite Jim Carrey film Liar Liar on the opening morning of the trial, did not post any reaction on Twitter last night.
Ferdinand’s parents sat in court all week and despite their obvious distress, they will be relieved that their son Anton has been formally exonerated by the court from inventing a racist allegation.
Riddle conceded that it was ‘brave’ for Ferdinand to agree to give evidence and went on to say that it is ‘inherently unlikely that he should accuse John Terry of calling him a f****** black c***, then shortly after the match completely deny that he had made such a comment.
The Ferdinand family, who were so upset and shocked by the verdict that they spent nearly an hour in a private room at the court following Terry’s acquittal, refused to comment.
Kick It Out, the campaign to stop racism in football, were represented in court throughout the week and expressed regret that the evidence against Terry was insufficient.
Chairman Lord Ouseley said: ‘It seems there is a problem with some men who are highly paid playing football and being abusive in a way which is totally unacceptable and the authorities will come together no doubt in due course to try and eradicate this.
‘I think at the highest level of football it’s got to stop, because these are people who are highly paid role models, they influence their fans.’
Lord Ouseley also claimed that the verdict is likely to deter black players from making formal complaints about racial abuse.
He added: ‘There is clear evidence we know that players are reluctant to come forward and raise this issue.
‘There is a culture in the dressing room which has to be tackled, people are very fearful and do not come forward.’
The former Chelsea and Celtic defender Paul Elliott said: ‘Football is a wonderful way for people to express themselves, break down barriers, challenge a lot of areas around all forms of discrimination and prejudices.
‘It’s about learning the lessons and ensuring that this type of situation doesn’t come into a court again.
‘I was a player that was engaged in the ugliness of the late Seventies and early Eighties and it’s regrettable that in the 21st century we’re here actually discussing these issues.’
Terry went to a central London hotel to celebrate with his legal team after the verdict and he will go on holiday with his family this weekend.
The former England captain has been given extended time off by his club and will join the Chelsea squad on their pre-season tour of America next weekend.
Sources: Football.co.uk, mailonline