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Posted by Phil Lythell on 07/16/2012

Due to the murky nature of the allegations and the sensitive nature of the case, this blog had hoped to steer clear of the recent John Terry trial. However, having monitored every element of the proceedings on a minute-by-minute basis and seen the extreme reactions to the not guilty verdict, an opinion had to be ventured.

Such was the intense interest in the trial of the Chelsea captain, everyone who followed this trial on Twitter was supplied with as much detail as Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle presiding over the case in Westminster Magistrates Court . The nation’s journalists seemed to be engaged in a perpetual race to see who could be quickest off the mark to let the Twittersphere know everything from the expression on the witnesses faces to the colour of Terry’s tie. It allowed anybody that was unable to gain entrance into the confines of the courtroom to virtually place themselves in the public gallery.

What we all observed was a tawdry tale of name-calling and playground thuggery that pivoted on the crucial context of the words uttered by Terry towards Anton Ferdinand during the closing stages of Chelsea’s ill-tempered 1-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers last October. Irrespective of the judgement, it is safe to say that nobody emerged from the affair with any credit. The liberal use of invective and the puerile claims about weight, halitosis, parental behaviour and their alleged extra-curricular activities with former team mates’ wives served only to paint a picture of ugly adolescence.

Putting aside the racial element for a moment, what this spectacle has provided is miles of column inches about the shame brought upon the game of football due to the language used by the protagonists on the field. Endless sermons have been conducted over the base nature of the sport and its players with even Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt – yes, the same one that recently covered himself in glory at the Leveson inquiry and also made some ill-advised comments on the Hillsborough disaster – trying to buy himself some goodwill by sticking the boot in.

Thankfully, there has been the odd voice of reason defending the sport from being singled out in this regard and one of them has come from the world of cricket, the so-called gentleman’s game. Former England captain Michael Atherton wrote a considered piece in The Times when he shed light on the kind of barbs slung in the throes of battle with Mervyn Hughes, Glenn McGrath, Ramnaresh Sarwan and even the softly spoken John Emburey cited as mouthpieces emitting insulting bad language. The Australians used to call it ‘mental disintegration’ and it was employed not to demean the opposition but to put players off their game. It wasn’t personal – despite the nature of the insults – but solely an additional weapon used to achieve victory. I doubt Ferdinand was personally aggrieved at Terry’s alleged affair, neither do I think that John Terry really believes the QPR man has bad breath. It is gamesmanship. Unsavoury gamesmanship but nothing more.

However, returning to the crux of matter – the alleged racial slur –it strikes me that many have chosen to ignore due process and have preferred to assume John Terry’s guilt. The verdict provoked a rash of outraged responses from both the football world and wider society with the wide proliferation of footage posted on YouTube having made everybody with an internet connection an instant expert in lip-reading and legal affairs. I wonder, though, how many of those apoplectic with rage actually read Riddle’s full judgement? If they had done, then they might not have condemned the court with such indecent haste when faced with the even-handed approach that was conducted by the magistrate. I implore you to read it for yourself which you can do by clicking here.

While the view of the masses can often be skewed and uninformed, what is particularly surprising is the view taken by the prominent anti-racism campaigner and the chairman of Kick It Out, Lord Herman Ouseley . His urging of the FA to “deal with the racial element” of this case effectively exhorts the game’s governing body to punish Terry for an offence for which the justice system itself has shown that – at the very least – there is insufficient evidence to prove his guilt. Had the magistrate arrived at a different verdict, I would be standing alongside those calling for the book to be thrown at Terry. As it is, the fundamental tenet of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ appears to have been totally disregarded by Lord Ousely as it does not serve his agenda.

Even more extraordinary is the now infamous endorsement by Anton Ferdinand’s brother, Rio, that Ashley Cole was a “choc ice” due to his testimony given in support of his club team mate. The comment made via Twitter was excused by the Manchester United player as not referring to Cole’s background or the colour of his skin but as a reference to Cole being “fake”. Now Rio might be a footballer but he’s not so stupid as to be unaware of the connotations of this comment especially given the fact that Cole is mixed race. To the Chelsea player’s credit – and, no doubt, Ferdinand’s relief – he has decided not to fan the flames of an already sensitive issue, choosing to laugh it off instead.

The problem with the reactions of those such as Lord Ouseley and Rio Ferdinand is that it could potentially serve to undermine the excellent and imperative work of organisations such as Kick It Out. Both individuals have contributed significantly to the eradication of the problem that has blighted the sport and society in general but in order to continue the fight against racism these mixed messages must be avoided.

Racism is abhorrent and should not be tolerated but assuming guilt in the face of either contrary evidence or its noticeable absence is almost as dangerous. John Terry might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the British justice system has found him not guilty. Without forgetting the need to tackle discrimination in perpetuity and barring the emergence of any unequivocal new evidence, it is now time for the FA, the Ferdinands and football itself to move on.

You can read more of Phil's opinions at or on Twitter @PhilLythell

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Posted by Shaun on 07/16/2012

Having read this excellently written article and the entire report by the magistrate i can say again how it pisses me off how the general public are ignorant and in a lot of cases stupid.
I have no care for John terry, i dont support Chelsea.

I could not care less what he does off the field, it is none of my business.

He has never denied saying the words, SO STOP SHOUTING ON TWITTER AND EVERYWHERE ELSE THAT EVEN YOU COULD SEE HE SAID IT and that the lip readers were obviously biased.

In this FREE country of ours you are innocent unless proven guilty.
You would all be thankful of this if wrongly accused of a crime.

They did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that he said it as an insult to Ferdinand and so as the magistrate says at the end of his statement.
"In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty. "

Posted by Mark on 07/16/2012

John Terry was just repeating what he thought Anton Ferdinand was accusing him of saying to him. When you have very clever solicitors you can get off any charge. When we heard this we all thought 'that is the most ridiculous defence ever'. What we didn't realise is that the solicitors had 'concocted' a story that could not be disproved. That's why they are hired. We all saw what Terry said; we all know what Terry said. Sadly, the only conclusion is 'John Terry, we know what you are'. Or more to the point 'John Terry you know what you are.' A very sad tawdry tale that shames football.

Posted by jeremy on 07/16/2012

I'm still confused by Rio's comments. Does he mean that I could, as a white person, waltz up to any Black or Mixed Race person and call them "Choc Ice" and that person would not take ANY racial connotations from the Choc Ice comment? And if that really is the case, Rio is calling Cole a "Fake" for getting on the witness stand and telling the truth? How else is Cole a Fake? Is Rio accusing Cole of selling out his race by telling the truth, is that the Fakery? Is that not Racist? Is Rio Publicy saying Cole Perjured himself on the witness stand?
It's all very rotten.

Posted by jack on 07/16/2012

This racial stuff is getting out of hand , if he called him something call him back a white count . This is like kindergarden " momy momy this kid call me stupid" . Deal with it .

Posted by phil on 07/17/2012

just curious as to why this blogger does not mention the suarez case? perhaps because there was NO evidence of what was allegedly said, yet he still received an 8 match ban. suarez did not even go on trial, yet still was found guilty by the (mu)fa. i have no qualms with the verdict, but if suarez gets an 8 match ban for something that there was no proof of, then terry deserves the same punishment. fortunately for jt, he is british and will, in all likelihood, escape any punishment because of this.

Posted by Johnny on 07/17/2012

I am in complete agreement with this blog to the letter.
The fact is, people are so caught up in their emotions, they forget that the Justice system is one based on objectivity & every accused person is innocent until proven guilty. I am a black man and instead of grabbing pitchforks & brandish torches for JT, I based my personal judgement of it all to the evidence & testimoney given to the court.
It is unfortunate that so many so-called intelligent thinkers leave their brains under their shoes when their emotions are unchecked.

And Rio has been IMO the biggest dissappointment in this whole debacle. How can he be agaisnt racism & encourage a racist comment? In his mind, is racism only against black people? It seems that I gave him way way WAY too much credit than he deserves. Shame on him!

Posted by oscar on 07/17/2012

a wiseman said "accidental words show the truth of yourself". by "choc ice" it clearly show that who is the true racist which is ferdinand brothers. no matter how smart you cover it, your smell of racist will eventually expose.

Posted by Yu Bumsuk on 07/17/2012

At the end of the day he's still one of the finest players ever to put on the Chelsea shirt. As for the trial, it seems that Ashley Cole of all people is the only person to come out of this mess with any dignity. Perhaps his is the best example to follow: don't go making mountains out of mole hills.

Posted by jack on 07/17/2012

I can understand that the court found him not guilty, but under the juristiction of the FA they would obviously use different guidelines.
In the case of Suarez, it was declared they do not consider him to be racist but in the same way he repeated a word, whereby in his country is not considered to be racist and had the book thrown at him.
If suarez case had gone to court, then i could say he was also be found not guilty.
Thus Terry should be pursued by the Fa and have the book thrown at him.
Otherwise its one rule for the english players and another for the foreigners!!

Posted by alan on 07/17/2012

The judge has handed down the verdict. That should be the end of it. The residual hysteria is caused by people who dislike JT because of his history, and no doubt resentment of the wealth of professional footballers. If you or I were dealt with in the courts for a similar offence no one would care what the result was. The Dept. of Political Correctness wants to be able to crucify someone, anyone if they have a high profile. The judge said not guilty so its not guilty. Whats the point having a trial in open court if we don't abide by the decision?

Posted by Simon on 07/17/2012

Sadly despite a court ruling of not guilty this is going to rumble on for some time and even if it does eventually quieten down will be re-ignited when the 2 teams meet in Sept and we have another handshakegate.I can not say one way or another in what context JT actually spoke to AF, however as JT is a hate figure in many peoples eyes outside of CFC, the courts verdict will not be accepted. I do not believe that he is racist and neither do I believe that AF wanted the matter to go this far. What is sad is that the FA will not leave this and what is even sadder is Rio still stoking the ember's. His endorsement of the Choc Ice analogy only has one connotation and for that he should be charged by the FA.
When all is said and done,its time to move on now from this incident and focus on football.

Posted by meh on 07/17/2012

Double-standard. Terry's trial is a joke. He should have been tried by the F.A. at the time and not allowed to play in the Euro, but it looks like they got what they wanted out of this and used Suarez as the scape-goat to shield Terry through this whole affair.

People are going to point out that this was always a criminal affair, but we all know that this is the biggest cop-out ever by the F.A. to avoid having to actually make a significant decision against a player that has the scruples of a drunken hobo. Why do they bother?

And back to Rio... Rio's a moron, always has been. If he wants to say Ca$hley Cole is fake, why doesn't he just say it? There's no reason for him to bring himself down to Terry's level, although it's pretty clear that it doesn't matter what Terry says or does, he's a protected species.

Posted by Dominic Lesniowski on 07/17/2012

One of the main issues here is what exactly is going on in western society. Anybody who has an understanding of history and current changes in society would realise that something is going on here. What we are talking about is not simply racism. Obviously racism is wrong and there is no place for it. But, why has this suddenly become a criminal offence? Of course, abuse of any kind has sadly always been a part of the game. People get abused for lots of reasons. But, is someone going to be taken to court for using bad words to insult a referee? Really, this is not simply about racism. There is something more going on here. It is a manifestation of an extreme form of political correctness that has taken a strangehold on western society. As anyone with any sense of history knows, this kind of abuse has been going on in football and society for years. People who are secure and mature will overlook and ignore abuse coming from people whose opinions are not worth listening to.

Posted by Jordi Cruyff_Durban on 07/17/2012

I must say, as a Man Utd fan, I've always found this Chelsea blog very interesting reading - very objective and well put. I have to admit that Rio's use of Twitter, along with 90% of footballers, is ill advised - it's a very public display of immaturity and even what appears to be a harmless opinion can create a huge wave of hysteria. It's an ugly situation which I hope will blow over, but I know that Rio - along with United - has far more important things to worry about...

Posted by Mike on 07/17/2012

Gotta say, that was a pretty dope defense strategy. I'm interested to see the FA decision on Terry, like everyone else, I wouldn't want to be them right now. Considering Suarez got an 8 match ban on hearsay, and Terry got his hearing/trial moved until like half a year later because it would be inconvenient for his club/national team, people are already on the edge of their seat w/ favoritism claims. Anything less than 8 games, the S--t is gonna hit the fan...

Posted by tree on 07/17/2012

Not taking action on the "Choc Ice" comment is giving a green light for any "Proper" racist or any kid in the school playground to make this a common accepted term....When they say "Keep racism out of football".It should mean Totally...Black or white..I'm fed up of hearing about it.

Posted by nilay on 07/17/2012

The Magistrate has given the correct judgement, based on the law. If there is not enough evidence to convict a crime - it is not a crime. We all know what JT said and even though i am a Chelsea fan, i don't think it was right. But then again, there are so many instances of racial abuse that go unnoticed. I still think it is too soon to make any judgements. The English FA are looking into the matter and they might still hand Terry a punishment. This does look unlikely though, as the FA will want to shield its own players. In the case of Suarez, he too should have first gone to trial and then dealt with the FA. Double standards are very prevalent in English football....long live the spineless FA...:)

Posted by Eric on 07/17/2012

Why am I stuck reading Harry Harris when ESPN has you on staff? How can we get you as the primary contributor to soccernet?

Posted by freedomloverboy on 07/18/2012

Dominic Lewniowski, very well said.

Terry could have called Ferdinand a "n----r", "porch m----y" or any racial slur and it should not matter as far as the law is concerned. It may well be wrong, and his club or the FA may very well discipline him as they see fit, but for distasteful language to actually be a crime is just absolute politically correct insanity.

Posted by Gabe on 07/18/2012

"People who are secure and mature will overlook and ignore abuse coming from people whose opinions are not worth listening to."


Posted by Jazzyjules on 07/18/2012

Thank you for your intelligently written blog. It's refreshing to read some sense for a change. As you correctly point out, the real shame is that proponents of anti-racism like Lord Ousely and Garth Crooks have presupposed Terry's guilt even after the verdict, thereby harming the anti-racism cause itself. Even now, as some of these replies suggest, there are those of a similar ilk, who believe in some conspiracy to protect Terry, borne no doubt from their prejudices against that player. MOVE ON.

Posted by George on 07/20/2012

I guess I am alone in thinking that this whole incident was blown out of proportion to divert from the real story in that particular game: that was the worst, one sided refereeing in the history of football.

Posted by Partie21 on 07/21/2012

I love JT and am glad he was found not guilty. Looking forward to the new season ahead. What JT said must be interpreted in context before people start passing judgement.

Posted by Tony on 07/24/2012

This is by far the best commentary on the Terry case that I have read. A couple of further points:
In losing the captaincy of England Terry paid an enormous price just on foot of being accused. I have not seen an apology from those who decided he was guilty prior to due process. Instead many have compounded the issue by discounting the court procedure and seeking a different forum which may find Terry guilty i.e. there must be one out there that will eventually fill these people’s needs.
Of course the Rio Ferdinand reference was racist. It is an insult only used in the context of race. Jeremy’s remarks are spot on.
It would appear that Mr Ouseley is looking for victims, innocent or guilty. I am Irish and have received negative comment based on my race. I balance these comments with the intent and circumstance being them. Unless Mr. Ouseley and Mr. R Ferdinand and others do the same they will surely loose the balance that makes their comments creditable.

Posted by John Ola on 07/26/2012

With the arrival of young, fast paced player I believe Di Matteo has a lot to deal with. After watching MLS all star game tonight, all I see in this kids is that they still need time to grow. Hazard and co needs to step up there game before the season begins.

Posted by harry on 07/28/2012

Did john terry sleep with Lord Ouseley. Wife or daughter for him to be calling for JTs head. And as for rio he's a absolute disgrace,he's a racist calling JT a racist.

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Phil Lythell Phil Lythell is a Chelsea season ticket holder and lifelong Blues supporter stretching back to the sepia-tinted days of Kerry Dixon and Pat Nevin. Author of Chelsea-centric blog, Phil has spent his entire life living within a 20 minute walk of Stamford Bridge which has cost him a fortune but has also kept him from those interminable queues outside Fulham Broadway Station giving him more time in the pub to discuss the latest glorious/calamitous/insipid match.

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