John Terry’s defence was improbable, implausible and contrived, says FA
• Football Association releases written reasons for verdict
• Independent panel also questions Ashley Cole’s evidence
The Football Association disciplinary panel that banned captain John Terry for racially abusing the Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand found his defence “improbable, implausible and contrived”, according to its written reasons published on Friday.
In a 63-page ruling,the FA regulatory commission finds that there was “no credible basis” for Terry’s defence that he was merely repeating back to Ferdinand in indignation the phrase “fucking black cunt” in the belief that the QPR player had accused him of racial abuse.
It also casts serious doubt on the evidence of Terry’s team-mate Ashley Cole and the club secretary, David Barnard, suggesting that the left-back’s evidence evolved over time to suit the case that Ferdinand may have said the phrase in question on the pitch. Cole responded on Friday afternoon by tweeting: “Hahahahaa, well done #fa I lied did I, #BUNCHOFTWATS.” The FA declined to comment.
Terry was cleared by a criminal court in Julybut subsequently found guilty of misconduct by the FAand handed a four-match ban and a £220,000 fine. Whereas the criminal case had to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, the FA commission made its judgement on the balance of probabilities. Terry has 14 days to decide whether to appeal.
“The commission is quite satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that there is no credible basis for Terry’s defence [in using the phrase],” it said.
The FA commission heard evidence from Ferdinand but not from Terry or Cole, so was forced to rely on their evidence in Westminster magistrates court.
The verdict also reiterates that it was not the panel’s job to rule on whether Terry was a racist or not: “In common with the Crown’s proceedings, the FA’s case is that Mr Terry said the words by way of an insult to Mr Ferdinand. It is not the FA’s case that Mr Terry is a racist. There is a large body of testimonial evidence, including statements from black footballers, to say that he is not.”
The saga, which along with the incident between Luis Suárez and Patrice Evra sparked fevered debate about the prevalence of racism in the game, began during an ill-tempered televised match between QPR and Chelsea on 23 October last year. The FA argued that it could not hear the case until the criminal proceedings in July this year had ended with Terry’s acquittal.
In new evidence that was considered by the panel but not by the court, it shows in an interview with FA officials five days after the match Cole said he heard a “b-word” but did not mention the word black. In a later emailed statement, Cole says the word “could have been Bridge”. But Barnard later emails the FA after discussing the matter with Cole to add the words “black or Bridge”.
In his witness statement some 10 months later Barnard also claims that Cole heard the word “cunt” being used in close proximity to the “b-word”. But the commission found on the balance of probabilities that Cole’s original evidence contained neither that word nor “fucking”.
“All of this causes the commission to have very real concerns about the accuracy of Mr Barnard’s recollection, and the motivation for the assertions that he makes in his witness statement about what Mr Cole said during the FA interview of him, particularly his alleged use of the word ‘black’ but also the words ‘fucking’ and ‘cunt’.”
The commission said those concerns raised “significant doubts” about the case that Barnard advances.
In deciding Terry’s punishment, the commission took into account Ferdinand’s victim impact statement, which made plain he had been “badly affected” by the incident and the high-profile nature of the match. Weighed against that was the fact the insult was said only once and the testimonials in favour of Terry by many of those involved in the game, with his team-mate Ryan Bertrand’s seen as particularly significant.
Chelsea’s manager, Roberto Di Matteo, said he did not believe Terry capable of discrimination. “I’ve known him for many, many years since we played together,” he said. “I’ve never had any doubt about the fact that his comments wouldn’t be of any kind of discrimination against any kind of ethnic party.”
Asked if he still stood by Terry, the Italian said: “At the moment, he’s our captain and he’s available to play.”
The full report can be read on the FA’s website.
The commission was chaired by a barrister, Craig Moore. The other two members were Stuart Ripley, the former Blackburn Rovers winger, who is now a solicitor, and the head of the Huntingdonshire FA, Maurice Armstrong.
John Terry did say the words “fucking black cunt” to Anton Ferdinand as an insult The commission rejected the defence Terry had advanced all the way through his criminal trial and FA proceedings. Terry had claimed he used those words only because he was repeating them back to Ferdinand, to deny Ferdinand’s accusation that Terry had just called him a “fucking black cunt”.
“We are quite satisfied that the offending words were said by way of insult,” the commission concluded.
Terry’s defence, which he advanced in court, was untrue In Terry’s criminal trial at Westminster magistrates court, the chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, had said Terry’s defence was “unlikely” but raised enough doubt for an acquittal.
The commission, applying a different standard of proof, the balance of probabilities, said it did not believe Terry. The judgment describes aspects of the defence as “improbable, implausible and contrived”. They concluded: “There is no credible basis for Mr Terry’s defence.”
Ashley Cole changed his evidence to support Terry’s defence, and was unreliable The commission found that Cole changed his evidence “retrospectively” about the altercation between Terry and Ferdinand, “with a view to bolstering” Terry’s defence.
In his interview with the FA, the commission found, Cole did not say Anton Ferdinand had used the word “black” in his confrontation with Terry. Cole then asked the FA, after the interview, to insert the word “black” into his witness statement.
The commission suggested he did this to strengthen Terry’s defence. If the chief magistrate had had the FA’s notes of its interview with Cole, in which the FA did not record Cole mentioning the word “black”, the commission argues “considerable doubts” would have been cast on whether Cole’s evidence was “reliable”.
There were “very real concerns” over the evidence given by Chelsea‘s secretary, David Barnard Barnard had asked the FA, on Cole’s behalf, to include the word “black” in Cole’s witness statement. Barnard told the commission 10 months later, on September 13 this year, that “I clearly remember” Cole had mentioned the word “black” when interviewed by the FA in November 2011.
The commission did not believe that. They concluded that Barnard had asked for the word to be inserted because it would help Terry’s case.
The commission accepted mitigating factors to decide a four-match ban was appropriate These included that Ferdinand provoked Terry, although that was no “excuse”; Terry’s good disciplinary record; an acceptance that Terry “is not a racist”; and the Premier League chairman, Sir Dave Richards, testifying as to Terry’s charity work.
The level of offence was lower than that of Luis Suárez because Terry had used the racist word only once Terry was given a four-match ban, whereas Liverpool’s Suárez was suspended for eight matches after racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, because Terry had used the racist insult only once, while Suárez was found to have repeated the offending words.
The FA’s barrister argued Terry may have said “fucking black cunt” as an “almost unconscious” insult The commission noted that strange argument by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, who prosecuted the case against Terry on behalf of the FA. It quotes Laidlaw saying Terry’s words were: “‘Perhaps an almost unconscious stream of invective,’ delivered in anger, and ‘without thinking through the consequences of what he was about to say’.”