John Terry and the FA: A Proportionate Response?
So after last week’s verdict, John Terry is guilty according to the FA. But he’s not guilty according to Westminster magistrates court. Yes but he is still guilty….. or, well, not guilty. Ok, he’s guiltily not guilty. Clear? Good, glad that’s sorted.
Depending on who you listen to it’s either or both. As far as the courts are concerned, he’s not guilty. They determined that he might have been repeating a phrase as opposed to using one. The context in which he used the language was important and the fact that there was doubt as to his intent. But the FA don’t appear to care. He used the language and that’s that. The FA and their heavy-handed attempts to appease people without in depth thought or analysis.
I’m not sure I’m at all comfortable with this. I don’t know whether John Terry said what he is supposed to have said or meant what he is supposed to have meant and evidently. Maybe he did really mean what he said. Or maybe he really was trying to clear up what had been said. Although it does seems odd to do that on the football pitch. “Excuse me did you just suggest that I should have sexual intercourse with my mother?”. “Yes.”. “Oh jolly good, I should hate to think you said something else dear boy.” Can’t imagine that happens often…
The problem is that as far as this untrained judge is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to be convinced and therefore not guilty seems the only answer. But either way, the FA have laid down the law and charged John Terry with misconduct. He has been banned for four games and has been fined £220,000 (subject to any appeals).
But I don’t think that the punishment tallies.
Admittedly just over a week’s wages. Not for me, for John Terry but still that seems quite a lot. Especially when you consider the completely disproportionate nature of other race related fines around Europe. For example; The Croatian FA were fined a relative pittance for fans making monkey noises and throwing bananas on to the pitch during a group game against Italy in Euro 2012. Lazio were a similar pittance for their fans making monkey noises during a Europa League game at White Hart Lane. The same applies to the RussiaN FA for their fans making monkey noises at Czech Republic full-back Theodor Gebre Selassie during Euro 2012.
I don’t know for sure what those fans intended but I don’t think there’s much doubt. I don’t think we’ll ever know what John Terry was thinking but whilst there is ambiguity, it seems unfair to punish him so steeply in comparison to what I think are open-and-shut cases.
I’m glad that the punishment bar for racial abuse is set high in England. I just wish that in cases where it is incredibly obvious the punishment should be as severe throughout the rest of the world. Unless the punishment is a deterrent rather than a risible slap on the wrist the problem will never go away.
You can follow the author of this article at @peterstickney.