Belfast Telegraph

James Lawton: Only lawyers stand to win in John Terry affair

There may be some more rich pickings for a legal brain or two – perhaps even up to the level of Premier League wages – but it is hard to believe that anyone else will gain much advantage as the John Terry affair lurches on.

Football in general and the ruling FA in particular can hardly be in a mood of self-congratulation in the wait to see if there is an appeal from the man who has, almost by reflex action, been retained as captain of Chelsea.

If you had to guess, you would probably say that Terry will probably fight his four-match ban and £220,000 fine. Of his many contrasting instincts, one for the overall good of the game that has nurtured him so extravagantly is certainly not the most obvious. He feels wounded and aggrieved and there is a point of law on which he may well be able to fight. So why wouldn't he?

Why would a man who jeopardised his club's chances of landing their Champions League title with an action so mind-bendingly stupid that it defied rational analysis – and then dressed up for the glory of receiving a trophy that had ultimately been won in his absence – decide to draw to a close an episode that has heaped so much more disrepute on the game which has long been developing an image from hell?

There is no form for Terry contrition – nor, unfortunately, for any FA understanding that sometimes it is quite a good idea to cut your losses. In the Terry case they have already been huge since the FA elected to give, without legal requirement, the courts of the land first crack at the charge that Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand of Queen's Park Rangers. The FA lost its £6m-a-year manager Fabio Capello, largely, it seems because of a failure to conduct some basic consultation and now it is at risk of still another convulsion.

Terry has been convicted "on the balance of probabilities", which has always been a worrying definition of working justice and this becomes doubly so when a court of the land found itself unable to convict.

The FA is in less difficulty explaining the disparity between the penalties imposed on Terry and Liverpool's Luis Suarez.

The accepted proposition was that Suarez prosecuted his abuse of Patrice Evra in a sustained fashion. Even the most critical view of Terry's behaviour has to focus on the fact that his victim admitted to persistent provocation before the flashpoint.

In a more sophisticated football world the FA might have settled for the fact that Terry had been required to face a trial beyond its powers – and did not survive it without a strong sense that he had been given a rather large benefit of doubt.

Instead the wound remains infected with the unavoidable suspicion that football administration is lost between good intentions and an extremely shaky hold on its power to solve some of its most intractable problems.

It has made its position clear enough on racism and this has to be welcomed. Unfortunately, we still await evidence that such a resolve will one day be accompanied by some coherent action.

Terry lacks the grace, so far at least, to close an appalling chapter. Football, ruinously, lacks the wit.

Belfast Telegraph


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