LONDON – Four Games.
Chelsea’s John Terry was handed “just” a four-game ban and a fine of £220,000, while Luis Suarez of Liverpool was given eight matches and a £40,000 fine for the same offense involving a racist slur.
Where’s the consistency, asked Planet Twitter?
We should not be surprised at the discrepancy as the Football Association’s disciplinary system inhabits a world of its own, where common sense and a natural sense of justice are too often bystanders.
At the same time we should put our outrage on hold until we have heard the detailed reasons by the Independent Regulatory Commission, which included a barrister.
Terry was found guilty of “using abusive and/or insulting words and/or behavior towards Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand and which included a reference to color and/or race contrary to F.A. Rule E3 in relation to the Queens Park Rangers FC versus Chelsea FC fixture at Loftus Road on 23 October 2011.”
Inevitably the sanction was compared with the eight-match suspension handed to Suarez last season for the same offense against Patrice Evra of Manchester United. While Terry was cleared of using racist language to Ferdinand in a court of law where the magistrate had to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt, a football commission’s threshold is on the balance of probability.
The commission explained the Suarez punishment: “As for the length of the suspension, we concluded that a four-match ban, which was the entry point under Rule E3(2), would be too low and would not reflect the gravity of the misconduct. Mr. Suarez’s behavior was far more serious than a single use of the word. If that was all that Mr. Suarez had done, and we had found the charge proved, the penalty would have been less than we have imposed.”
Hands can be tied by legal red tape and Suarez’s lengthier ban seems to be because he used an insulting word eight times. However, what the pair have in common is that they have both been found guilty, and while Liverpool’s reaction to Suarez’s verdict was a tacky sense of injustice, we can expect a less hysterical response from Chelsea.
Terry will never get the sympathy vote because while respected as a player, he is, outside of Chelsea, perceived by many as a loathsome human being.
Ryan Giggs raises no more than an eyebrow for having an alleged eight-year affair with his sister-in-law, but if Terry committed a parking violation some would want him sent to the Tower of London.
Of course, Terry has a list of indiscretions that he calls misunderstandings, and when the 32-year-old faced the disciplinary commission this week he claimed he was the victim and that the F.A. treated other players who were the subject of criminal proceedings differently.
It is never JT’s fault, always a witch-hunt, an anti-Chelsea stitch-up. The only thing he’s been guilty of is missing a penalty. The timing of his retirement from international football was lawyer-driven, announced on the eve of his hearing last Monday, designed to get your retaliation in first.
As a player Terry remains inspirational, committed, consistent, brave and has leadership qualities that saw him made captain of England.
Unfortunately, he also lost the captaincy twice, and last May he said he would never turn his back on his country, which is precisely what he has done.
He will be remembered as a passionate and courageous defender who consistently made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Along with the alleged affair with the ex-partner of teammate Wayne Bridge, Terry also embarrassed the F.A. when it was revealed the private box at Wembley he hired at a discount rate was being offered on the black market. Parking his car in a disabled bay was, like most things, a misunderstanding.
It is sad that a player who won 78 caps should retire in this matter, but there was an inevitability about it because whatever Terry did seemed to be surrounded by controversy.
Few tears have been shed for the man who wore the armband with pride but did not know how to behave as an England captain is expected to.
Terry and his legal team will decide whether to appeal when they receive the commission’s findings. He will not want to accept the verdict or the sanction but he knows the chances of either being changed are zero.
THE HYPOCRITE of the Year award will surely go to Stoke City manager Tony Pulis. The Welshman understandably complained about the diving antics of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Oscar during last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Pulis certainly had a point about Ivanovic, who should have been cautioned for simulation (Oscar was, a little harshly).
The weakness in his argument is that when Peter Crouch twice handled the ball as he scored against Manchester City the previous weekend, Pulis said: “If Peter’s got away with it, then brilliant.”
So it’s OK when one of his players cheats but not when an opponent does it.
On Thursday, Pulis said: “The F.A. should pull people up for diving and give them a three-game ban straight away. Ivanovic would be looking at three games, Chelsea wouldn’t be too happy with him and I don’t think he would be diving around any more.”
As violence must be worse than diving, I wonder what punishment Pulis would give to a player who elbows an opponent off the ball?
Stoke’s Andy Wilkinson is serving a three-game ban for such an offense. Maybe he received a pay rise.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.