Rio Ferdinand Twitter ban: did FA time it to avoid Terry clash?
QPR defender's punishment sends a message about FA's attitude towards Twitter, but not sexism
Former England captain Rio Ferdinand has been handed a three-match ban by the FA for sending an abusive tweet during a row with a fan on Twitter, and failing to respond to the FA charge.
The offence took place during an exchange of insults on transfer deadline day, during which Ferdinand made a juvenile remark about another tweeter's mother, which contained the word 'sket', a slang term for a sexually promiscuous woman.
The FA charge did not come until six weeks after the message was sent and Ferdinand, who now plays for QPR, chose not to attend the hearing on Wednesday.
If he hoped the charge would disappear he was mistaken. The punishment, a three-game ban and a £25,000 fine, "sends a clear message about how seriously [the FA] take Twitter postings", says the Daily Telegraph.
But it also leaves the organisation "open to accusations of double standards" after Premier League Richard Scudamore escaped FA disciplinary action after a series of sexist emails earlier this year.
"Ferdinand wants to absorb the verdict, and the FA's reasoning, before deciding whether to appeal," writes Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph. "There is, however, considerable anger at the severity of the punishment and it is understood that parts of the Ferdinand camp regard the sanction as illogical and grossly unfair."
The ex-Manchester United player has become the "most high-profile player to be suspended for comments made on social media", says The Times. The severity of the punishment may have come down to Ferdinand's previous, adds the paper, recalling that he was fined £45,000 for comments about Ashley Cole on Twitter in the fall-out from the John Terry race row in 2012.
His refusal to attend the hearing "went down particularly badly with the three-man commission", notes The Independent.
It adds that the ban is immediate and if he does not lodge an appeal Ferdinand will miss QPR's games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Newcastle.
The FA may be quietly congratulating itself on the timing of the ban, as Ferdinand is in line to miss the west London derby and a possible confrontation with Chelsea defender and former England colleague, Terry.
The pair fell out badly after a QPR v Chelsea match in 2011 during which Terry was accused of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother Anton, and the fall-out led to the end of Rio's England career. A meeting between the pair would only have added to the tension in an incendiary London derby.