Chelsea captain John Terry has been cleared of using a racist obscenity towards QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
The former England captain, 31, was accused of calling the QPR centre-half a "f****** black c***" during a Premier League match on 23 October 2011.
Despite the verdict Terry could still face censure from the Football Association (FA), who are investigating the case. They said in a statement they would "now seek to conclude its own enquiries", which had been halted during police investigation.
Luis Suarez was fined £40,000 and given an eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra during a Liverpool-Manchester United premier league in October 2011.
Following a week long trial, chief Magistrate Howard Riddle cleared the player of a racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster Magistrates' Court.
Riddle said it was possible Terry said what he did "as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him".
"In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty," said the judge.
Terry jerked his head downwards as the verdict was given, and his relatives in the public gallery cheered.
Reacting to the verdict Garth Crooks, of the Kick it Out campaign, called on the FA to act despite the verdict saying "If the FA don't act on the undisputed facts, and find Terry guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, a lot of good people are saying to me that there's no point in getting involved in the game at a senior level."
Terry left court without making a statement. Looking impassive, the footballer, who was part of England's Euro 2012 squad, was escorted by aides past the media scrum outside the court.
He made no comment but was cheered by a small group of Chelsea supporters as he was driven away. Outside court Anton's father Julian Ferdinand told reporters: "I have nothing to say to you at all"
Bruce Buck, the chairman of Chelsea Football Club, appeared shortly after Terry and made a short statement to the press, saying they [the club] "respect the decision of the magistrate today".
"We are pleased that John can now put his mind to football and go back to training and do what he's done for many years," said Buck, adding: "That's really all I have to say. No questions".
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) defended the decision to prosecute the former England captain, saying: "It was our view that this was not 'banter' on the football pitch and that the allegation should be judged by a court.
"The Chief Magistrate agreed that Terry had a case to answer, but having heard all of the evidence he acquitted Terry of a racially aggravated offence. That is justice being done and we respect the Chief Magistrate's decision."
Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman tweeted that the language used had no place on the pitch, whatever the verdict.
During the trial the court heard Terry was not prepared to be called a racist.
"I have been called a lot of things in my football career and off the pitch, but being called a racist I am not prepared to take," he said in an interview with the FA.
Lord Herman Ouseley, Chair of Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion campaign, said: "Kick It Out notes the decision reached and now awaits the pronouncements from The Football Association (FA) to any subsequent investigation into the matter.
"It will be interesting to hear from other organisations this will impact on, from governing bodies to leagues and clubs, and how they deem matters like this to be dealt with in the future."
10 Pictures Which Defined The Court Case
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Excerpt from the magistrate's judgement:
"There is no doubt that John Terry uttered the words 'f****** black c***' at Anton Ferdinand.
"When he did so he was angry. Mr Ferdinand says that he did not precipitate this comment by himself, accusing Mr Terry of calling him a black c***.
"Even with all the help the court has received from television footage, expert lip readers, witnesses and indeed counsel, it is impossible to be sure exactly what were the words spoken by Mr Terry at the relevant time.
"It is impossible to be sure exactly what was said to him at the relevant time by Mr Ferdinand.
"It is not only that all of this happened in a matter of seconds.
"For a small part of the relevant time the camera's view of Mr Terry was obstructed.
"We do not have a clear camera view of Mr Ferdinand, sufficient to pick up exactly what he said.
"No matter how serious the incident looks now, and how crucial the exact wording is now, at the time it was secondary to the key witnesses.
"They are professional footballers in the final minutes of a game where the result mattered to them both.
"They would naturally concentrate on the game more than on exactly what had been said to them or by them.
"There was the noise of the crowd. There is the fact that towards the end of a game players are not only physically tired they are also mentally tired. I don't need evidence to tell me that.
"It is a crucial fact that nobody has given evidence that they heard what Mr Terry said or more importantly how he said it.
"He has given effectively the same account throughout. Insofar as there are discrepancies in his account, they are understandable and natural.
"He says that he was himself wrongly accused by Mr Ferdinand on the pitch of calling him a black c***.
"He has maintained that from the beginning.
"(Terry's team mate) Mr Ashley Cole has corroborated that it was mentioned to him during the game.
"There is no doubt that reasonably soon after the game he made the accusation to Mr Ferdinand. He confirmed that basic account in a statement on the evening of the match.
"He gave a very detailed account to the FA and later to the police. He gave evidence to that effect in this court.
"There have been minor discrepancies in the account.
"It seems likely that his belief that he was wrongly accused on the pitch has strengthened as time goes by, and I have discussed that above.
"However, his account has been subject to the most searching and thorough questioning on at least three occasions.
"Nobody has been able to show that he is lying. The lip readers do not provide evidence that categorically contradicts his account.
"What may at first sight have seemed clear to the non-expert, is less clear now.
"There are limitations to lip reading, even by an expert. I have assessed John Terry as a credible witness.
"Weighing all the evidence together, I think it is highly unlikely that Mr Ferdinand accused Mr Terry on the pitch of calling him a black c***.
"However, I accept that it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the time, and believes now, that such an accusation was made.
"The prosecution evidence as to what was said by Mr Ferdinand at this point is not strong.
"Mr Cole gives corroborating (although far from compelling corroborating) evidence on this point.
"It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him.
"In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty."