John Terry cleared of racism, but is the affair really over?
Chelsea captain is found innocent, but the case raises plenty of questions
CHELSEA footballer and former England captain John Terry has been found not guilty of racism. He was cleared by a panel of magistrates after a four-day trial over claims that he had called opposition player Anton Ferdinand a "f***ing black c***" during a match against QPR in October last year.
Announcing the verdict Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said it was impossible to know exactly what was said by the two players as they hurled insults at each other during the closing stages of the match.
QPR player Ferdinand had goaded Terry over claims he had an affair with a team-mate's ex-girlfriend. Terry, although he admitted using the words "f***ing black c***", insisted he was sarcastically repeating them back to his opponent after Ferdinand used them first.
"The former England captain sat in silence behind the glass-fronted dock while Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle delivered the verdict to the packed Westminster Magistrates' Court. But cheers erupted from friends in the public gallery as he was cleared," reported the Daily Mail.
Terry had plenty of high-profile backing during the trial, The Times reported. "[Ashley] Cole, Terry's Chelsea and England team-mate, had given evidence for the defence. He denied that he was part of a dressing room plot to cover up what had occurred. Eighteen Chelsea players signed statements read in court saying that they had never heard their captain use any racist language".
However, there were calls for futher action against him despite the outcome of the court case.
Writing for The Guardian, Garth Crooks said he was concerned about what the verdict meant for the fight against racism in football. "Will the institutions push the anti-racism campaign further down the priority list?" he asked. "If the FA don't act on the undisputed facts, and find Terry guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, a lot of good people are saying to me that there's no point in getting involved in the game at a senior level."
Jim White in The Daily Telegraph said he accepted that Terry was not a racist, but despaired at the language he had used during the incident.
"Wouldn't it be encouraging if this case led everyone involved in the game to realise that actually, as it happens, it can be played without the insistent drone of such disrespectful verbal thuggery? Sadly, it would be unwise to hold your breath on that one," he wrote.
In The Times, Simon Boyes said the whole process raised queries about the legal system.
"While it is important that allegations of improper behaviour on the football field are properly scrutinised - particularly where there is a suggestion of racist conduct - it may be that a court of law is not always the best forum," he argued. "Had the Terry case been dealt with by the football authorities, an incident which took place in October 2011 could have been resolved in a matter of weeks, rather than rumbling on for so long."