By Liam Twomey
For those who have waited a year for some public sign of contrition from John Terry, Thursday’s statement apologising for the racist language directed at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand and accepting his FA punishment might be viewed as a small victory.
But far more will remain dissatisfied by what they see as an attempt by Chelsea and their captain to draw a line under the incident rather than properly confront what is, at the very least, a very serious error of judgment which requires their full attention.
In truth, Terry could do little else than apologise. The comprehensive and compelling nature of the FA’s written justification for reaching a different conclusion to the one arrived at by Westminster Magistrates’ Court back in July left him no other alternative.
"Although I'm disappointed with the FA judgment, I accept that the language I used, regardless of the context, is not acceptable on the football field or indeed in any walk of life,” his statement read.
"As I stated in the criminal case, with the benefit of hindsight my language was clearly not an appropriate reaction to the situation for someone in my position. My response was below the level expected by Chelsea Football Club, and by me, and it will not happen again."
Terry did not go as far as to validate the FA’s view that his defence against the charge was “impossible, implausible and contrived”. Nor did anyone expect him to, given that to do so would leave him open to a possible criminal charge of perjury.
For the first time, he did publicly accept that his words were unacceptable in any context and apologised for any offence caused, although the fact that such an expression of regret has taken so long and did not name Ferdinand, the victim of all of this, on its eventual arrival will anger many.
But perhaps the bulk of criticism will be directed at Chelsea themselves, who have stalled and stalled on the issue of punishing Terry for his misdemeanour while hiding behind the fact that their captain still enjoyed a right of appeal against the FA.
Now, belatedly, they have elected to take action, and its timing is in itself puzzling. If the club believe, as they say in a statement released shortly after Terry’s own, that their player made the right decision in not appealing his ban and fine and had already conducted a full internal investigation which found against him, why did they not sanction him earlier?
But the most troubling issue is the news that any consequences Terry will face at his club may never be made public. Of course, Chelsea are just one of many clubs who routinely keep their disciplinary procedures internal, but this was far from a routine situation. For the club simply to say they have done something is not enough. They must allow themselves to be seen to have done something.
The likeliest cause of the Blues’ unwillingness to reveal the level of punishment is that they suspect it will be deemed insufficient, leaving them open to a similar level of castigation from football, anti-racism groups and society at large to what the FA endured when they elected to hit Terry with only a four-game ban and £220,000 fine.
But if an instinct for self-preservation is the best reason for Chelsea not to reveal what steps they have taken, this simply will not do. True justice does not exist if it is not done in public and open to scrutiny. The club's chosen course merely strengthens the growing suspicion that ethical concerns take secondary importance to the issues of financial prudence and sporting competitiveness in modern football.
It is highly likely that, if Terry was a middling 18-year-old in the Chelsea youth system or a fan mouthing such filth in the stands, the club would have been unerring and very public in applying their often trumpeted zero tolerance policy on discrimination to the letter. Indeed, Blues fan was banned from Stamford Bridge for life in May for racially abusing Didier Drogba, and Jon Obi Mikel's Twitter abusers will, if found, face a similar punishment.
As things stand, however, despite his reputation now lying in tatters and his ability appearing to be on the slide in his twilight years, Terry remains too valuable to upset or discard.
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