The situation surrounding the case of John Terry’s alleged racist slur toward Anton Ferdinand and his position within football is one that can only be described as a mess. Today the FA took the step of stripping John Terry of the England captaincy for the second time in his career. The FA have released a statement explaining the reasons why John Terry would no longer continue as captain:
“The FA Board expected the trial to be concluded prior to the European Championship. Further to Wednesday’s confirmation that the trial will not take place until after the tournament, the Board has discussed the matter in detail and has collectively decided it is in the interests of all parties that John has the responsibilities of captaincy removed at this time.
This decision has been taken due to the higher profile nature of the England captaincy, on and off the pitch, and the additional demands and requirements expected of the captain leading into and during a tournament.” http://www.thefa.com/TheFA/NewsAndFeatures/2012/john-terry-statement-030212.aspx
On one hand you may say ‘well done’ to the FA for acting swiftly (for once) after the court dates for Terry’s trial were announced. On the other hand you may think this situation has rumbled on far too long and should have been dealt with when Terry was first charged. John Terry will still be available for England selection for the European Championship’s, giving an opportunity for the focus to remain on Terry and his court case, rather than the England team and the actual European Championship.
John Terry will no doubt feel aggrieved by the FA’s decision to strip him of the England captaincy as he continues to protest his innocence against the racism charge. Out of both spite and disappointment, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Terry did quit international football for good, perhaps he should. If he does continue to play and is selected in the final tournament squad, you can imagine the media frenzy that will circulate around Terry. During the tournament this will give the British media the opportunity to focus heavily on the court case, whilst if anything happens involving Terry either on or off the pitch, it will be no doubt be blown out of proportion as we all know nothing gets in the way of a good story. Foreign media would have the opportunity to portray England as a nation that promotes racist behaviour, which would be a PR disaster that neither the country or the FA do not, and should not, want.
Other than the media focus (which is no doubt one of the FA’s main considerations when it come to Terry) England have one of the most diverse and multi-cultural squads in world football and some squad members may not agree with his inclusion for the same reason he has been stripped of the captaincy. It is debatable whether Rio Ferdinand will make the final cut for England this summer, but he is a prime example of someone who has campaigned against racism and, when it comes to brother Anton, does have a problem with Terry. The last thing England want is a divide in the camp during a tournament that demands cohesion – we have previously seen how this can negatively affect performance in the case of both France and Holland in tournaments gone by.
A question that arises in my mind is should the FA let England players be put in that situation in the first place? In my opinion no, this is one area where the FA are mistaken in not suspending/excluding him from selection for England. Regardless of football, a person can feel uncomfortable in the presence of someone who potentially goes against their fundamental values & morals. We do operate a ‘innocent until proven guilty’ policy that underpins the law in this country, however unless you can swear, hand on heart, that Terry is not guilty of racism, either because you know him well or you were there, you will always have doubts - it’s a natural thinking process for any human. To avoid such conflict in any work place, the accused would be suspended from work until a full investigation was carried out. Dependant on the result, that person would either be sacked or allowed back to work, why should this case be treated any differently? Is it because he is a footballer?
If the FA needed any indication of whether such problems can be an issue, they only need look at why they intervened and scrapped handshakes prior to the recent QPR vs Chelsea FA Cup fixture. This is an issue that could again be highlighted this weekend if John Terry does lineup against Anton Ferdinand’s brother, Rio, as Manchester United meet Chelsea in the Premier League.
Regardless of Terry’s innocence or guilt, wouldn’t it be better (for once) to go in to a major tournament with no controversy or media agenda and just let the players play football without any additional pressures? In my mind I fear that it could already be too late as once again we see a situation dealt with in a way that does not comply with the rules that govern the rest of society.