John Terry ‘racist language’ case shows what a mess football is in, whatever the court verdict

Former England football captain John Terry was acquitted today in a magistrate’s court (not a criminal court) of calling rival footballer Anton Ferdinand a “fucking black cunt.”

Terry’s defence was that Ferdinand had used these words to him and Terry had repeated them back to him, with satirical intent.

Now if you believe this you’ll believe anything. But the presiding magistrate decided the case against Terry was not proven, which it wasn’t. And it should never have been brought in the first place. Foul-mouthed yobs should be sent off the pitch if the referee hears what they say or charged by the police if they say such things to anyone else.

Ferdinand, younger brother of Rio, Terry’s long-time partner at the heart of the England defence, had previously annoyed Terry with a reference to his fling with the girlfriend of another player Wayne Bridge. According to the peculiar morals of football this is ‘out of order,’ whereas all sorts of other bad behaviour are par for the course.

So what does this say about the ‘beautiful game’ into which corporations all over the world, and indeed sovereign states like Abu Dhabi and Qatar, are pouring their money?

Not a lot on the credit side of the ledger, obviously.

So what will the football authorities, the English Football Association which is supposed to run the game (although it doesn’t) and the Premier League (proud owner of a new £3bn broadcast contract courtesy of BSkyB and BT) do about it?

Now footballers lose their rag with each other the whole time so a bit of industrial language is inevitable. If Ferdinand, who’s mixed race, had called Terry a ‘white cunt’ would that have been actionable?

But these millionaires need to be told in no uncertain terms, by their paymasters, how they should conduct themselves. And if they over-step the mark they should be banned for six matches and fined a month’s wages, about £500,000 in Terry’s case. As it was, if he’d been found guilty he would have faced a maximum fine of £2,500.

That way the clubs would suffer too (they’d lose their players). As for Terry and Ferdinand, maybe they should just be put in a cage and left to sort it out (Sky would no doubt lead the bidding for the TV rights).

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.