by Rob Ward
It’s not often the FA make universally popular decisions. Football’s tribal nature ensures that one faction of fickle fans will always take umbrage whenever the game’s governing body rules against them: witness the furore over the Suarez/Evra row. But the FA is making a habit of taking sensible decisions over controversial issues lately and anyone observing objectively has to agree that stripping John Terry of the England captaincy is the right thing to do.
Regardless of his abilities as a footballer (arguably overrated and certainly on the wane), he is not fit to lead his country into a prestigious international tournament. Over recent years Terry has been dogged by off-field controversies which have seriously undermined his claims to the armband. His well publicised affair with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend threatened squad harmony, his clumsy attempts to cash in on his England captaincy stank of opportunism and avarice and now he faces a criminal trial for allegedly racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand.
How could a man accused of such a crime lead out a multi-racial England team in Polkraine? How would the squad’s black and mixed-race players feel? Would Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and Glen Johnson want to play under a man who faces a trial for calling a fellow player a ‘black cunt’ just hours after the end of the tournament. And what about Rio Ferdinand? Should the Manchester United player’s injury woes recede he’d be certain to be on the plane – and potentially playing alongside a captain due to face his brother across the courtroom.
Talk of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is an ideal which does not really exist.
Such a situation might be intolerable for the players. It would also be potentially embarrassing for English football’s governing body. What would happen if any of Englands players faced racist abuse from the terraces? This is not unlikely in Poland or Ukraine – but how could the FA credibly complain about such issues if the figurehead of their team was accused of similar crimes. How could the captain comment on such issues on press conferences?
And in the unlikely event that England won Euro 2012 it would be John Terry collecting the trophy from Sepp Blatter. What an image that would present to the world – a FIFA head-honcho who has repeatedly dropped himself in hot water over his insensitive sexist, homophobic and racist outbursts presenting one of the most prestigious trophies in world football to a man facing police action for similar acts.
Of course, John Terry might be entirely innocent. But talk of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is an ideal which does not really exist. If a public servant were accused of racism he would almost certainly be suspended from his position pending the review or hearing into his guilt. Why should the England captaincy be any different? Besides which, the FA are not condemning Terry through this action – merely suspending judgment.
The FA needed to take action to prevent English football potentially becoming a hypocritical laughing stock. That’s exactly what they’ve done. Pre-empting the worst case scenario is in the best interests of all involved – should Terry be found guilty the reputational damage to England would be impossible to rectify retrospectively.
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