In a season that has seen racism return to the limelight of English football, John Terry has this week pleaded not guilty against a racially-aggravated public order offence for an alleged racial slur during a match last October. The date for the trial has been set for 9thJuly.
The accusation came after a video of John Terry, appearing to use aggravated racial language towards Anton Ferdinand, was circulated on the internet shortly after a match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea.
The Chelsea and England captain claimed his innocence when the Crown Prosecution Service charged him before Christmas, vowing to “clear my [his] name as quickly as possible”, conflicting with his request for a delayed trial.
Officially, the trial has been delayed on the grounds of Terry’s playing commitments for both Chelsea and England, whilst the Chelsea chief executive Rob Gourlay also wrote a letter of appeal claiming that the trial would disrupt match preparation if Chelsea players and staff are called in to give evidence. Whilst Gourlay is understandably protecting the interests of the Chelsea FC , a few players taking the morning off training to testify for Terry would not have too great of an effect on match preparation, especially if it helps to clear Terry’s name. There is more importantly, however, the lingering question over John Terry’s role as England captain.
Terry was infamously stripped of the England captaincy in 2010, following tabloid revelations about his private life. Having sworn that Terry would never wear the armband again, England manager Fabio Capello controversially retracted his decision and reinstated Terry just a year later.
In spite of the latest controversy surrounding Terry, the FA has insisted that he will not be stripped of the captaincy. Terry is, after all, innocent until proven guilty. But does Terry have the right to have the trial delayed, and how damaging could it prove to player and club, should Terry be found guilty? Is there an ulterior motive behind Terry’s request for a delayed trial?
Imagine the following scenario: I, a full-time student, am accused of racially abusing a fellow student in front of other students in the library. I am reported to an internal disciplinary board that will investigate the incident. Would I be allowed to delay my disciplinary hearing until July, so as not to interfere with my exams? Assume the university does grant my appeal to delay my hearing; I sit my exams in June and then at the hearing in July, I am found guilty. In a professional institution, being found guilty of racially abusing a colleague is worthy of, and should lead to, a dismissal; but by now I have already graduated and received my degree- they can give me a slap on the wrist but I can still walk away with my qualifications.
Having just turned 31 years old, Terry is slowly becoming a shadow of the stalwart defender he once was. He’s won league titles and domestic cups, but after almost six years in the job, he has still never captained England at a major international tournament. With some great young centre backs in Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill fighting for their place in the England first XI, this summer’s European Championships is likely to be Terry’s last chance to captain England to glory. Terry’s days as an England player, let alone captain are, are numbered.
Personally, I believe his career deserves the honour of captaining England at the Euros, but in some cases the best interests of the accused shouldn’t take precedence over the interests of club and nation. Assuming he is found innocent, a swift trial would allow him to concentrate on playing for both Chelsea and England; notwithstanding the fact that it would save the FA from the scrutiny they will undoubtedly receive from the rest of the world if John Terry, the accused racist, leads England out against France on 11thJune. The presence of the approaching trial can be nothing but a detriment to both player and team, in preparation for the Euros.
The deed is done, the date is set and John Terry has his chance. I do hope, for the sake FA at least, that he is found not guilty, for if Terry does collect the trophy for England on 1st July, only to be proven guilty a week later, it is they who will be the laughing stock of the rest of the world and it is they who will have to deal with the consequences. Terry, tarnished though he may be, can walk away from England with the glory he has so desperately craves.
This is my first blog post on Sporting Witness. Please comment with honest, constructive criticism and let me know what you think! Follow me on Twitter: @macielj92
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