Belfast Telegraph

Why a four-game ban for John Terry when Luis Suarez was suspended for eight?

By Robin Scott-Elliot

It is just over 11 months since John Terry and Anton Ferdinand confronted each other towards the end of an ill-tempered contest at Loftus Road. Yesterday's outcome does not mean this saga – a term for once not casually assigned – will end. Terry has two weeks to consider his reaction and if he decides to appeal it will add another chapter. It is not swift justice, yet the Football Association maintains complete confidence in how the matter has been handled.

There is quiet content among the governing body over a process that took its penultimate turn yesterday when Terry and his legal team left Wembley contemplating their response to the four-game ban and £220,000 fine, a level of penalty determined by his salary. If required, the FA appeal board will provide an absolute conclusion. Its decision is binding and leaves no room for any further appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The FA will review what has happened and how it has been handled, but only in the sense that any organisation would review its processes after they have been put to a significant test. The attitude within the FA does not suggest sweeping changes to its disciplinary procedures; in fact it does not suggest any change at all. There is a belief within the organisation that it got this one right – and that crucially its disciplinary set-up maintained its vital degree of independence from chairman David Bernstein and the rest of the board and executive – despite taking a long and winding road to get there.

The reason for the length of the process is, insists the FA, down to the moment the Crown Prosecution Service decided Terry had a case to answer. The CPS then requested – requested not instructed – the FA delay its own inquiries which meant Terry was not charged until 27 July. The FA says it had little choice but to do as the CPS asked. But it could have gone ahead with its own process. Four years ago, a report by Dame Elizabeth Neville, a former chief constable, into the collapse of the Kieren Fallon trial concluded on a governing body's involvement that "there is a substantial public interest in such disciplinary proceedings continuing unhindered".

There are concerns around the process, including not naming the panel. More importantly a four-game ban for using racist language does not appear adequate – the panel's judgement as to why that mark was decided upon should have been published with the verdict, not delayed. Transparency is all.

There are comparisons to be made with Luis Suarez's case. The Liverpool striker was not judged to be "racist" – as with Terry – but received an eight-game ban because he used "negro" seven times. His suspension was also lengthened because he was an "international footballer playing for one of the best known clubs in the world… a position that carries a particular degree of responsibility. This is a serious breach of that responsibility." What is John Terry, captain of Chelsea, if not an international player with one of the best known clubs in the world?

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph