When the FA assembled its learned John Terry star chamber, chaired by an as yet anonymous QC, we can be in no doubt that justice was going to "seen to be done".
The utterly mendacious and despicably worded charge that they lay at his feet had nothing to do with upholding the dignity of the game; if it was, Anton Ferdinand would have endured the same kangaroo court for his part in the slanging match at Loftus Road. But the FA had made clear from the start that despite the findings of a court of law, John Terry was going to be branded a racist; and to compound their duplicity, they have withheld the written details of their "guilty verdict" although the "lenience" of the punishment would suggest the race element contributed minimally to the verdict. We shall see.
But the desired effect has been achieved. A procession of hacks, no doubt gnashing their teeth with rage and indignation when the judge delivered his verdict at the court trial have had a revival. Their bilious vilification of Terry has risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of the judicial process and they have felt able to hold forth on the righteousness of the FA's path.
"See, we told you he was a racist!"
Articles are written, interviews are given and all with the assumption that Terry DID say those infamous words with malice. Damian Collins MP, within minutes, was on the BBC saying, astonishingly, that "no matter what a court of law says, John Terry must accept that what he did was unacceptable". Read that again; "no matter what a court of law says". And the witch hunt is not reserved solely for John Terry because there are sentinels crawling all over the media, ready to pounce on anybody who has the gall to point out the unsettling precedent this case sets.
One supposes it is to be expected from fans of other clubs but the attacks, foot-stamping and finger pointing emanates from many quarters. The (more frequently-than-is-healthy-for-him) hysterical Patrick Collins launches into tirades at Roy Hodgson for having the temerity to comment on John Terry in anything less than hateful terms.
The FA's action was "highly civilised" according to the poet laureate of football pundits. This journalist, who has always sought to set himself apart from his contemporaries with his florid prose (and by extension portray himself as a mind of substance) has joined the mob, attacking anybody who dares to point out the error of a kangaroo court behaving in a way that allows a man, declared innocent by due process, to be re-branded in the most extreme ways. He shamelessly cites civility in his defence of a hearing that has ridden roughshod over principles that are a fundamental pillar of what gives this country a right to call itself civilised in the first place.
He and many others, like frustrated children unable to control their tempers, have decided to jettison the sense of propriety they would normally claim until blue in the face because the temptation to "get" John Terry was just mouthwateringly, incalculably powerful. Even those purporting to take a less partisan stance on Terry have accepted the absolute veracity of the FA verdict; John Barnes treated Talksport listeners to a fifteen minute rant on the subtleties of racism during which he was actually defending John Terry but through it all spoke with the assumption that he did indeed racially abuse Anton Ferdinand.
The Independent, in a headline that one suspects could eventually see them disabused of cash, trumpeted "Leader, Legend, Racist". Daniel Taylor of the Guardian, in banging the drum for Rio Ferdinand's inclusion in the England squad makes reference to Terry as having received pitfiul punishment for "calling someone a f.. g black c...t". Really Daniel? I think you will find he was not found to have "called" anybody any such thing. Only Martin Samuel, both before the court trial and since, has maintained any sense of dignity and respect for what is right.
So it is official. The findings of a panel of hastily assembled individuals working on the basis of "probability" rather than evidence and facts and in contravention of their own clearly stated rules are above the law. This small group, cajoled, harried and heavily influenced by the politics of a sport's ruling body can usurp the authority of hundreds of years of systemic justice and valued principles of innocence until proven guilty. They carry more credibility than the rule of a judge and five days of evidence and witness statements. They want to cast a stain on an individual and so they will and that individual, who has faced his accusers in a court of law, is now, on a global scale, branded a racist. And the mob cheers them on.
It has become more important than anything else to get "toxic Terry". This isn't about football any longer. It is not about racism in football either. I am more convinced than ever that the cause of anti-racism has been damaged by the case because I have had to endure more mindless anti "PC" rants from football fans than at any time I can remember. They too have had a second wind; here is proof that the PC Brigade, as they put it, get their own way, whatever the cost.
An endless procession of one dimensional and clearly racist individuals are having a field day on internet sites, in pubs and on the terraces. The FA and those encouraging them to pursue a man they have the most irrational dislike for have done us all a great disservice. It isn't about whether you like or dislike John Terry - that is almost totally irrelevant any longer. The pursuit of Terry has been to satisfy a prejudice and has put a monumental dent in the side of the anti-racism cause.
Here is what it boils down to; did Terry say what he said as he is accused of saying it? No, according to a court of law. It doesn't matter if he really DID say it maliciously. It wasn't proven. The FA have no right, either morally or in any other way, to seek to assuage the anger of the injured party and their supporters just because the accused is a deeply unpopular individual. We have a process and it was fully observed and pursued.
Anything else is medieval and uncivilised.
A version of this article appeared on www.bluetinted.com
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