Dear Sir (? Mr Blackhurst),
On September 28th the front page of the Independent carried a picture of John Terry with the headline “Captain, Leader, Legend, Racist”. This was just not a slanderous attack on Chelsea’s captain, it was a deliberate and calculated insult to Chelsea Football Club and to hundreds of thousands of Chelsea supporters both in Britain and abroad.
We wish to bring the following points to your attention.
1. John Terry was acquitted by a court of law of a “racially aggravated” public order offence. He was then charged by the Football Association with using abusive language and also of using a word which referred to colour or race.
2. In its written verdict on the case, published on October 5th, the FA Regulatory Commission makes the following statement – Paragraph 3.4:
“It is not the FA’s case that Mr. Terry is a racist. There is a large body of testimonial evidence, including statements from black footballers, to say that he is not.”
3. In its conclusions on the case the Commission states – Paragraph 9.5 (iv):
“It is accepted by everyone involved in the criminal and disciplinary proceedings that Mr. Terry is not a racist.”
4. It is therefore quite wrong to accuse John Terry of racism, let alone brand him as a racist as your front page headline did, using red ink just in case anyone might miss it. This is not simply a matter of an opinion or a choice of words.
5. This is something you must have been well aware of before publishing your headline. After the Football Association announced the summary verdict – on the afternoon of September 27th, well before the Independent went to press – Lord Herman Ouseley was interviewed by Richard Bacon of the BBC about the case. Lord Ouseley, as you presumably know, was formerly chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and now heads Kick It Out, the official anti-racist campaign in football. During this BBC interview Lord Ouseley stated:
“This isn’t about John Terry being a racist. And clearly no one should be accusing, and no one has accused, John Terry of that.”
6. We do not know what John Terry intends to do about your slanderous headline; that is obviously a matter for him and for his legal advisers. However, the banner about John Terry – “Captain. Leader. Legend” – is prominently displayed by supporters at Stamford Bridge, with the agreement of the Club. It is familiar nationally and internationally through television coverage. It has become a hallmark of the Club. To caricature this banner by adding the word “racist” as you did, and highlight it as well, can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to denigrate us and damage our reputation as well as John Terry.
7. Chelsea Football Club is proud of its reputation on and off the field, as are its supporters, including our reputation for opposing racism. It is probably the most multicultural professional football club in Britain, and possibly in Europe. Sixteen years ago Chelsea Football Club appointed the first black manager in the Premier League. It employs black people at every level – security staff, administrative staff, playing staff and management, including Technical Director. It also has supporters of every creed and colour, not just in Britain, but right round the world.
8. The Chelsea Supporters Group is one of several organisations set up to represent the interests of supporters, both to the Club and in general. We know these other groups share our resentment and disgust at this insult to the Club and its supporters. We now call on you to withdraw your allegation and to publish an apology, giving this apology similar prominence to your headline of September 28th – ie on the front page .
9. Copies of this letter are being sent to the Press Complaints Commission, the Football Association, Kick It Out, Chelsea Football Club, and to John Terry’s legal advisers. It will also be published on our website.
CSG Committee [Chelsea Supporters Group]
YET AGAIN we are forced to turn to Ashley Cole for the most succinct summary of the FA commissions report into the John Terry and Anton Ferdinand affair. Ashley is becoming a bit of an oracle, a fount of wisdom on this issue.
Having read the report, or having had it read to him slowly by somebody he employs for this purpose, Ashley, via the medium of Twitter, natch, commented: "Hahahahaaaaaa. Well done #FA. I lied did I? BUNCH OF TW***."
We were initially told that as a consequence of what seems to me an extremely accurate summation, if somewhat robustly expressed, Coles England career may be in jeopardy. The tweet has since been removed, and I suppose this, plus a writhing statement of regret, should be taken to imply a form of contrition. I wish Ashley hadnt been contrite: the FA in effect called him a liar and impugned the conduct and reputation of both the club for which he plays and, of course, his friend and captain, John Terry.
It has all made me rather more favourably inclined towards Ashley and Chelsea than was hitherto the case. Come on you Blues, etc.
Cole, remember, is the one person in all of this farrago who was definitely, unequivocally, racially abused which occurred when Rio Ferdinand was delighted to hear his England colleague described as a Magnum or a Solero or something, again on Twitter. A choc-ice, that was it. A lying choc-ice now. Not very nice, is it? Still, if youre looking for a stocking-filler for a football-mad relative or friend, you could do worse than order the full FA report, which we might call *****gate. You can replace those asterisks with whatever word you find most offensive: its an interactive thing.
The report is inadvertently illuminating in parts, and always hilarious. I notice that one of the commission members charged with pontificating in this matter was Stuart Ripley. I quite like the idea of abolishing the appeal courts in this country and replacing them with panels composed of former Middlesbrough FC wingers and inside-forwards Wilf Mannion, Derrick Downing, David "Spike" Armstrong and the like. Joe Laidlaw, maybe, although I suppose hes better remembered for his time at Carlisle.
The report begins with a fabulously detailed description of who said what to whom, all dealt with in the utmost seriousness, including Terry calling the QPR goalkeeper at the time, Paddy Kenny, a "cheeky c***" and puffing his cheeks out as if to suggest that Mr Kenny was overweight.
Before this we had the rapid-fire exchange of pleasantries between Ferdinand and Terry: "How can you call me a c***, you shagged your teammates missus, youre the c***," said Anton, doing a passable imitation of Oscar Wilde.
The gestures are described in full after all, at 63 pages, the report is a lot longer than the Gettysburg Address including the one Terry made to indicate that Anton had shockingly bad breath. Does he? I suppose we may never know for sure. Parma Violets can help with that sort of thing, although Im not convinced you can still get them these days.
Later the report details the exchange in the dressing room after the game, which was held at Terrys request. This section concludes with the sentence: "Mr Terry then shook Mr Ferdinands hand and the latter left the dressing room." And in some parallel but very distant universe, one governed by a sense of perspective and rationality, that is where the whole business would have ended.
But we are not in that universe, sadly; we are in this one, and still only eight pages into the report.
In an attempt to prove that Terry is a habitual liar about stuff that happens on a football pitch, his sending-off against Barcelona in last seasons European Cup semi-final is dredged up. At first Terry said he didnt think it was a foul; later he agreed that it looked bad and that maybe he had clattered the bloke. And thats it: Terry has form, so we cant believe him. As it happens, I thought it was a stupid, pointless foul but Terrys explanation for it seemed to me both genuine and believable. But then I have never played on the wing for Middlesbrough.
The fact that Terry was cleared in a court of law of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand is also dealt with in detail; the FA insists that its procedure is likely to be more just than that which pertained in the magistrates court because paradoxically, you might think, if you were sane the burden of proof required for a simple disciplinary affair is not so great.
The FA is then required to stick the boot into the magistrate, implying that he was a little credulous of the evidence presented to him by Cole and Terry. He used, the report admonishes, the word "possible" in rapid succession.
And then the boot swings out at Cole for the "evolution" of his evidence and also at David Barnard, the Chelsea secretary. It is implied that Chelsea cobbled together some sort of cover-up by pooling their evidence and later changing their tune when the case came before the court and later the FA. I think if I were running Chelsea Id have a word with my lawyers.
And in the end, what has been the consequence?
England have lost their captain, a white man who even the FA concede is not remotely a racist. And it may well have lost two other fine players, directly or indirectly as a consequence Cole and Rio Ferdinand, both of them black. Ah, but justice has been done, and seen to be done.