John Terry and Ashley Cole have shamed Chelsea and England
Most major private or public institutions would sack a leading figure who was found guilty of saying what John Terry said
We defy anyone to watch John Terry on YouTube very clearly mouthing the words “You fucking black cunt … fucking knobhead” at Anton Ferdinand and not agree with the independent commission set up by the FA to investigate the October 2011 incident. They concluded that Terry’s defence (that he was repeating words which Ferdinand had alleged he had used) was “improbable, implausible and contrived”. They said there was “no credible evidence” for Terry’s defence.
“We are quite satisfied that the offending words were said by way of insult,” the commission concluded. The independent commission alleges that John Terry’s defence – which he advanced in court – was untrue.
He was acquitted in a criminal trial at Westminster magistrates court in July, although the chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, had said Terry’s defence was “unlikely” even if there were insufficient grounds for a conviction. How will Chelsea FC react? How would most major private or public institutions react if one of their leading figures – say, the chief executive – was found guilty by an independent commission of saying, in public to a competitor, “You fucking black cunt … fucking knobhead”?
They would sack them.
If Chelsea – who have said they will wait to see if Terry appeals before making clear their intentions and on Saturday confirmed there will be a “disciplinary process” with Ashley Cole – choose not to do that, what reasons will they – and their owner, Roman Abramovich – give for not taking this course of action? Are they happy their captain has been found guilty of lying? Are they happy that he uses the phrase “You fucking black cunt … fucking knobhead” in public? Are they happy for this man to be their captain?
To be their leader? Really?
Are Chelsea fans happy to have their team led by a man who uses a racist insult? Will Chelsea fans – and with social media there are many opportunities for them to find their voice, how about #sackjohnterrynow? – signal their disapproval of their “leader”? Because if they don’t, then how can they take a credible stand on racism in public life ever again? They can’t. There is no reason for being equivocal about racism.
And what of Chelsea’s commercial partners and sponsors such as Samsung? Are they happy that their brand is represented by a team leader who says to an opponent “You fucking black cunt”? They shouldn’t be and they should use their considerable influence to demand that he plays no further part in any association with their brand.
Chelsea have other questions to answer. And answer them they must if the shame that this incident has heaped on British football is to be erased. The independent commission detailed how Ashley Cole’s evidence “evolved” over time in order to further support Terry’s defence. The FA are accusing Cole – Terry’s principal supporting witness – of lying. In his first statement to the FA Cole made no mention of having heard Ferdinand use the word “black”. In a revised statement he asked for the word be inserted into his statement to strengthen Terry’s defence.
The commission concluded: “Mr Cole did not hear, and could not have believed, understood or misunderstood Mr Ferdinand to have used the word ‘black’.”
It was the Chelsea club secretary, David Barnard, who facilitated Ashley Cole’s change of evidence. The commission concluded that there were “very real concerns” over Barnard’s evidence and said it was “materially defective”. This is a damning indictment of their club secretary. How will Chelsea react? What would other major public or private companies do?
What will Chelsea’s considered response to the FA report be once they have had time to digest how comprehensively it has eviscerated their captain, their club secretary and their left-back? We’ve already had Ashley Cole’s response when he tweeted “Hahahahaa, well done, #fa. I lied did I, #BUNCHOFTWATS”. He later “unreservedly” apologised. Of course he did. And is that it, Chelsea? Is it OK for Cole to react in that way to a charge this serious?
Chelsea have been shamed by this incident. They have been shamed by John Terry and Ashley Cole. For those of us who love football it is dispiriting, depressing and disgusting to see how football (including the FA who were also criticised by the independent commission) has dealt so ineptly with this Terry affair. And not just this incident. Who can forget Liverpool’s lamentable response to the Luis Suárez incident last year?
And the FA, even now, seem to have some difficulty learning lessons from this fiasco. In a briefing to journalists from the Sunday media on Thursday – before the publication of the independent commission’s report – the England manager, Roy Hodgson, responding to persistent questions, said he might consider giving the captaincy to Ashley Cole for the World Cup game against Poland to coincide with the defender’s 100th cap.
On Saturday the FA made it clear to those same journalists that they should not refer to that section of the press conference lest it reflect badly on Hodgson or the FA, or that not giving the captaincy would be seen as revenge for the Cole tweet. Perish the thought.
The fact that the request from the FA came with an implicit threat that anyone who ignored this advisory might suffer in terms of future cooperation from the FA is both abysmal and shocking.
Racism is vile and malevolent and has blighted many people’s lives. It continues to do so, although great strides have been taken to reduce its incidence. Only racists and intellectual Neanderthals would need convincing that society has to adopt a zero tolerance approach to incidences of racism, or racist insults. And that includes football.
As one writer noted on Saturday: “Most footballers get through the day without uttering a racist remark.” In fact, most of us get through the day without uttering a racist remark.
Terry and Cole are an embarrassment to football, to Chelsea and to England. The club – and just as importantly, their supporters – need to be seen to understand that clearly. And react accordingly.