There will be a million words and countless opinions on the written reasons for the John Terry verdict published by the FA. It is possibly one of the most contrived and brazenly arrogant documents you are likely to read; what shocks is how there seems to be little attempt to veil the hearing's motivation but more stunning still is that it shows a process so bewilderingly, frantically determined to get its man that the outcome is even worse than we could have thought.
I have posited the theory that the FA felt compelled, whatever the cost, to pursue Terry. But even those as cynical as I could never have imagined the lengths to which the FA would go in order to justify their actions. This hearing and subsequent written reasons take the concept of politically motivated kangaroo justice to unprecedented levels. Here is what it boils down to;
- The FA have to be seen to be dealing with the issue of racism
- Rule 6.8, that awkward and unhelpful part of the FA's rulebook which excludes the pursuit of a player who has already been tried in a criminal court was brushed aside in several paragraphs of the most spine-tinglingly childish philosophising that criticised those who wrote it (they even mention the draftsman). Its authors, they say, didn't know what they were talking about.
- The court case, far from being ignored, came under scrutiny itself. The tone of the written report from the FA is essentially that of a High Court Appeal ruling. Justice Riddle, although praising Terry's credibility was, in fact, a bit of a fool for being taken in by him. Did the judge not see how Terry did indeed lose his cool in the Barcelona semi final?
The report also sets out to join the fan led mob (who say "ah, the verdict was not guilty but did you read the judges comments?") by giving a forensic breakdown of individual words used by the judge in his ruling, even adding their own emphases. The message from this is that not guilty may have been the verdict but we all know he did it really, so we can happily ignore the verdict itself because, well, we don't have to view it "through the prism of a criminal standard of evidence". So that takes care of that. We are not fooled by Terry. We know what JT is like and the judge gave us a nod and a wink to help us along.
- Ashley Cole apparently perjured himself. So they managed to get a little dig in at a man who had the gall to defend Terry. We should bear in mind that their reasoning for attacking Cole was a statement that the FA didn't take contemporaneous notes of. But hey, let's not let process get in the way of a witch hunt. And we won't mention the hastily convened, secretly held hearing for the grossly insulting tweets by Rio Ferdinand. Ahem, cough.
So here we have the FA panel, citing the evidence brought forward in a criminal trial but using a finger in the air, predetermined viewpoint to reach a "verdict". That is it. They have a lesser burden if proof so won't even make an attempt to get to the bottom of it or, heaven forfend, the truth. Mr Terry is utterly untrustworthy but Mr Ferdinand isn't. End of story. We like Anton, the poor boy has suffered so we will take his side, the court can go swing because we don't actually have to prove Terry did anything wrong, we just want to say he did. And we can. So we will.
That ladies and gentleman is the long and short of the sixty three page document. They go to great lengths to say that they do not believe Mr Terry is a racist and then spend sixty two and three quarter pages saying he is a liar, a racist and an unhinged hothead based on a video clip that is inconclusive and conveniently lacks a clear view of the critical words that make what Terry says after Mikel obscures the shot actually carry any sense. Oh dear, what a pity, never mind. But it was never about getting to the bottom of the matter, of trying to prove Terry is a racist or said anything racially abusive. So let us move along quickly shall we?
The FA have sat in judgement over the criminal proceedings of a court of law. It is that astonishing. They have dismissed that court's findings, they have ridiculed the witnesses, they have assumed the resonance and meaning of a judge's comments or, where it suits them, diminished their meaning and relevance altogether. They have not found nor brought forward further evidence but have put Terry's trial "on trial" as it were and found it wanting. They have set themselves above and superior to the law of the land and all of this contrivance and bullying comes about because one unpopular footballer "keeps getting away with it" and has caused the FA too many difficult moments.
One hopes and expects that Terry's QC will be chuckling to himself as he takes apart every toxic, desperate and duplicitous word and prepares any number of appeals and legal challenge. I would also hope to see Ashley Cole's QC doing the same.
Meanwhile, as we waited for the document to appear, a procession of journalists turned their attention to the matter of Rio Ferdinand and his exclusion from the England squad. That is Terry's fault too and Roy Hodgson's candid expression of what virtually every football fan in the country knows to be obvious (that Ferdinand is way past his sell by date) is merely a vile expression of his oft voiced support of Terry. I expect Terry will be blamed for much more besides in the coming months but he can scarcely concern himself with that any longer. What Terry must do is fight the FA and its rulings, along with pursuing some of the more libellous correspondents until the very end.