John Terry Moves On From Trial. Should Soccer?

By Alan Dymock

Last night John Terry scored in Chelsea’s pre-season loss to the MLS All Stars team.

At the end of the game he gleefully clapped hands with David Beckham and strolled around the pitch, taking in what was billowing around him. The abiding thought as this happened must have been: “wow.” He is a very lucky boy.

Having been acquitted of a racially aggravated offence by the British justice system, Terry was free to drop his worries. He was able to travel to the US with relative ease. His employment was secure. His fans were able to sing praises about ‘JT’ without anyone having proof to counter their claims.

In the end the only course of action was to find Terry ‘not guilty.’ There was no clear evidence to declare Terry had definitely used the phrase “f****** black c***” with malice, however unlikely any other scenario would be. Intent is hard, legally, to prove.

Terry may well be an abhorrent character. There could well be a queue round many corners, should character witnesses against the man ever be required. However, he only needed one piece of corroboration against the frail evidence opposing him.

As Ashley Cole reluctantly took the stand, he supported Terry. This, it seems, was enough to convince a court, or at least nudge them one way after considering the weaknesses of the defense’s case and the frailties of Anton Ferdinand’s own performance on the stand.

After the ‘not guilty’ verdict another potentially racist outcome was seen. Rio Ferdinand, no doubt caught up in anger and disbelief following the result, tweeted that Cole was a ‘Choc Ice.’

Being a block of vanilla ice cream thinly coated in a layer of chocolate, it is easy to see the racial connotation signified by the term ‘Choc Ice.’ Of course, as the English press and feminist groups have pointed out, the language used in the incident itself (alongside the insidious racial slurs) has made English soccer appear much like a breeding ground for ignorant discourse and adolescent outbursts. Rio Ferdinand’s comments only serve to reinforce this notion.

For now, it appears as if praxis is unlikely.

With the rights to air English Premier League matches in the UK being sold for £3bn, there is likely to be an increase in funding for the game. Financial Fair Play (FFP), introduced by UEFA, monitors the “one off” financial activity and levels of debt exceeding set amounts. With all clubs likely to enjoy the fruits of this windfall, FFP may have little effect.

So what happens when more money floods into the game? Do people look to tighten their belts or save?

It is possible that more money may go into players’ pockets as demand for services increase amongst suddenly wealthier teams. This may not help eradicate footballers’ image of being spoilt millionaires, and with men paid vast sums of money to do what they have always done there is a chance that the collective sense of entitlement may grow to a level the average person cannot stomach while the on-pitch experience is notably the same.

Also, with more money there is a chance that fewer will see education as an option. Youngsters in academies can be offered greater amounts, or at least see the possibility of greater wealth, and could seek education less. This, of course, will not always be the case, but as a worst case scenario it is bad. Less education and a greater sense of entitlement is a terrible mix for those filmed and recorded as they tussle with one another.

For John Terry, anyway, there will be a case of changing nothing. He is too deep into a career to stop working practices.

If intent was there, and Ferdinand was abused and then fined by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute, then more must be done to monitor players on the pitch. This would perhaps be called for anyway, in light of how juvenile and vitriolic interactions can be on the park.

If intent was not there then Terry can rightfully travel, work and play. However, after a period of inaction, following the trial, he must take stock, alongside the rest of us. Football has been dragged through the mud. Guilty or not, fans lend support in tribal manner, completely ignoring greater morals. It was the same when Luis Suarez was charged for a racist infraction by the FA.

Perhaps more should be made of the greater social impact of this result. Rules of interaction should be no different because a sport is being played, nor should ‘banter’ excuse intolerance. Sure, everyone does it, but that is a learned response.

It is perhaps time to unlearn some things, because, as John Terry happily shakes hands with players after the MLSAS game, racism can be brought into a wider question: why do we excuse all forms of terrible behavior when success is the result?

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