Actual conclusions from John Terry versus Anton Ferdinand 1

The Premier League Owl

Briefly, because we’re all reaching our saturation point with this.

The national press published their reactions to yesterday’s verdict at Westminster Magistrates Court this morning, and almost all of them tried to draw conclusions from the trial that just don’t exist. Nothing has been learned, nothing was proven, and nobody can draw a single positive from the week’s events.

Without a shadow of a doubt, anybody who believed in John Terry’s innocence last week still holds the same conviction seven days later, and those who thought he was guilty of what he was charged with now believe that he’s wriggled out from underneath the hammer of justice. There are no surprises there then, that’s football – and that’s the tribalism which clouds everybody’s judgement on all facets of the game.

There was a case made in one of the broadsheets this morning, that the trial has established a boundary for what is and what is not acceptable on a football pitch. Sorry, but I can agree with that. If anything, it’s done completely the reverse.

John Terry’s defence was built around semantics; a question mark here, and a tactical inflection in his tone of voice there. Regardless of your opinion on the credibility of that argument, what has now been established is a precedent for others who are accused. Essentially, you can say whatever you like on a football pitch as long as you’re able to create reasonable doubt over what you’ve said or how you’ve said it.

Nobody can argue that to be a good thing.

Arguing against the verdict is wrong, because the conclusion drawn was correct along the lines of the evidence presented – even those baying for Terry’s blood would have to concede that. But the by-product of that, is the potential discouragement of future victims reporting something similar. Anybody who has watched this trial unfold, or read the judgement, would surely now believe that proving such wrongdoing is an incredibly difficult task. The likely result? Players who are abused will see little point in pursuing action in the future.

The FA need to do something to cure that problem. Given what came out in court, football’s governing body should now be talking to both players, because it’s important for the game as a whole that some semblance of retribution is taken – the sport needs to show itself to be less passive on this issue. In a court of law, all the accused needs to do is establish reasonable doubt – and that’s not the case under the jurisdiction of the FA. The issue can’t simply be left as it is, because the majority public perception is that John Terry has escaped punishment because of the quality of his legal team. That sends a dreadful message. Likewise, Anton Ferdinand should be brought to account for some of the things he admitted saying at Loftus Road that day. This is not Hackney Marshes, it’s a billion dollar industry with high-visibility across five continents – players need to be held to a higher standard of behaviour.

Anyway, enough…but it is important that this has a more clear-cut resolution.