LONDON – The season of goodwill? I don’t think so. Happy New Year? I doubt it.
In the coming weeks John Terry, the England captain and Harry Redknapp, the England manager-elect, will both appear in court, Terry charged with a racism offense and Redknapp with tax evasion. Both have denied the charges but there could hardly be a more embarrassing end of 2011 for the Football Association.
On Tuesday, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was found guilty by the F.A. of misconduct . . . using insulting words, including a reference to the color of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. The Uruguayan was handed an eight-game suspension and a £40,000 fine, pending appeal.
The following day the Crown Prosecution Service announced Chelsea and England captain Terry will appear at a magistrates’ court on Feb. 1 charged with using racist language toward Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers on Oct. 23.
While the rest of the world seems to regard racism as a minor irritant, England should be applauded in adopting a zero-tolerance stance. The F.A. may get many things wrong but not this.
There has to be a presumption of innocence until proven guilty but even if acquitted it is impossible to imagine Terry playing alongside Rio Ferdinand, Anton’s brother, for England as he has many times. The F.A. has been handed the hottest of potatoes: if, as seems likely, Terry’s court appearance is delayed, should a player accused of racism lead his country against the Netherlands on Feb. 29?
The F.A.’s main sponsors will feel uneasy about someone, albeit an innocent person but one charged with alleged racism, effectively promoting their products. Terry’s previous indiscretions have reduced his number of sympathizers significantly and most of the country would be unhappy with someone accused of racially abusing an opponent wearing the captain’s armband and singing the national anthem. Innocent, yes, but Terry should be taken out of the England spotlight until his trial has reached a conclusion.
It is a decision the F.A. rather than Fabio Capello should make though the only comment the governing body has made is “no comment.” Terry’s career, certainly at the international level, is on the line because if he is found guilty of racially abusing an opponent he cannot lead an England team containing several black players. Even playing for his country again would send out the wrong message. Should Terry be convicted in law, an F.A. charge would then be inevitable with a similar punishment to that handed to Suarez if found guilty.
Every touch by Suarez, at Wigan and Terry, at Tottenham, this week was booed by opposing fans. It will continue and though there was an ounce of understanding for Suarez it has been buried in the crass reaction of Liverpool. When Suarez was charged they immediately backed him without any internal inquiry; when found guilty Liverpool claimed the F.A. was “determined to bring charges even before interviewing him,” and was “pre-judging” the Uruguayan when the club has done precisely that.
The same applies to Chelsea with Terry but for Andre Villas-Boas to offer unswerving support “whatever the outcome . . . I will support him even if he is found guilty,” will be seen as condoning racism. You cannot defend the indefensible but of course with so much self-interest that is what clubs do. Clubs also back players who break opponents’ legs, abuse referees, dive to obtain penalties and exaggerate pain level to get a member of the opposition sent off. If a player is one of theirs, blind loyalty is the order of the day.
Both Liverpool and Chelsea should have waited until they had studied the evidence that saw an independent F.A. regulatory commission find Suarez guilty and the CPS to charge Terry rather than assume innocence or in Liverpool’s case also be in denial. Suarez was found guilty of making a racist comment and banned for eight games — at Wigan his teammates wore T-shirts in support.
In whichever context Suarez believed he was using “negrito” — I have a friend whose white Colombian wife is known as Negra because of her jet-black hair — it still breaches F.A. regulations relating to a person’s color. I can accept in his mind he probably didn’t use it as an out-and- out racist term but Suarez should be experienced enough to realize that what is accepted in South America is not accepted in England. Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.
DAVID MOYES, the Everton manager, left the Blackburn vs. Bolton game at halftime because he was so disgusted with the abuse the home fans were giving Steve Kean.
I cannot remember such vitriol being directed at a manager as Kean is enduring. Emotion is one thing but when this borders on hatred it is utterly unacceptable.
In no other profession does anyone turn up for work and see his name with the word “out” next to it on banners, with thousands chanting for him to be sacked. Kean has conducted himself with professionalism and restraint but the lame-duck manager is not the real villain in the demise of Blackburn.
Venky’s, the club’s India-based owners, have ripped the heart from the club that is the cornerstone of the local community, the lifeblood of many in the Lancashire town. Just over a year ago, they sacked Sam Allardyce, a respected manager with a record of success, and replaced him with the untried Kean, who they have left to be hung out to dry. If Venky’s had tried to ruin a club, it is unlikely they could have done better — or worse.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.