The Football Association yesterday rejected John Terry's assertion that the governing body had made his position with the national team "untenable" as the former England captain faced the first day of his hearing on charges of allegedly racially abusing the QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
Terry, who denies the charges, followed his sudden retirement from international football on Sunday by spending five hours at Wembley yesterday for the opening stages of a hearing in front of an independent panel. The proceedings are expected to last up to four days.
While the FA issued a basic statement thanking him for his contribution to the national team and the England manager, Roy Hodgson, expressed his disappointment and "reluctant acceptance" of Terry's decision, Alex Horne, the FA's general secretary, was more forthcoming in responding to the defender's dramatic decision on the eve of the hearing.
If found guilty by the four-strong panel, Terry faces at least a four-match ban and a guilty verdict would also have made any subsequent selection for England an ongoing problem for the FA. Terry claimed that because he has already been cleared of a criminal charge over the allegations "the FA have made my position with the national team untenable".
Horne said: "It's a personal decision. I don't see how we have made it untenable, they are two very separate processes. It's something that happened in a match – it shouldn't be taking a year to resolve but we feel we are reaching a conclusion on that.
"That's a very different process from our England procedures; they sit in different compartments and I could separate the two in my mind, but it doesn't look like he could."
Horne spoke en route to Wembley, but for the remainder of the day the FA steadfastly refused to discuss the matter beyond a brief statement and Hodgson's response. The FA fears leaving itself open to accusations of trying to influence proceedings and will not comment further until a decision is reached. The governing body is anxious to play up the independence of the process – it is a decision made solely by an independent panel. The FA has not named the panel, although the former England, Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough winger Stuart Ripley, now a sports lawyer, is reportedly among the quartet led by a QC.
Horne acknowledged the process, which now stretches over 11 months, has gone on too long. The FA was requested by the Crown Prosecution Service to put its investigation on ice until legal proceedings were complete. Terry was found not guilty of racially abusing Ferdinand at Westminster magistrates' court in July. The FA charged Terry on 27 July.
Terry's legal team were at Wembley by 7.30am yesterday, with Terry arriving a couple of hours later, around the same time as Ferdinand. Terry is charged with breaking two rules, E3(1) and E3(2), by "using abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour" and including a "reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Anton Ferdinand." It is the same charge Luis Suarez of Liverpool faced last season. Suarez was banned for eight matches having used the word "negro" more than once to Manchester United's Patrice Evra. There is only one allegation standing against Terry and he has admitted saying "f***ing black c**t" to Ferdinand, although he denies it was directed as an insult.
The 31-year-old won the last of his 78 caps against Moldova earlier this month. "I'd like to thank John Terry for his commitment to the England team since I became manager," said Hodgson, who chose Terry ahead of Rio Ferdinand for Euro 2012. "I am of course disappointed to lose a player of John's international experience and exceptional ability.
"I have enjoyed a good relationship with John during my time as England manager and I reluctantly accept his decision. I can also confirm he had the courtesy to call me prior to announcing his retirement from the England team. I'd like to wish John well for the future with Chelsea."
The FA statement said: "The FA would like to thank John Terry for all his efforts with the national team over the last decade. During his 78 appearances John has always given his full commitment to the team."
Chelsea play Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight in the Capital One Cup at Stamford Bridge but Terry is not expected to feature.