John Terry racism trial: Chelsea captain faces tense wait to hear verdict
John Terry will discover on Friday whether his 600-game career will forever be tainted by a criminal conviction for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.
Chief magistrate Howard Riddle informed Westminster magistrates’ court on Thursday of his intention to deliver his verdict after 2pm on Friday.
It will be a tense wait for Terry, who denies the charge. Although the maximum penalty available to Riddle in the event of a guilty verdict is only a £2,500 fine, it would have enormous implications for Terry’s future and the English game in general.
Riddle must decide whether the Chelsea captain intended to offend Ferdinand when he used the words “f------ black c---” following an exchange of insults between the pair at Loftus Road in October last year. Terry insists he uttered the words, which were caught on camera, only in repetition of what Ferdinand had falsely accused him of saying.
If Riddle finds in favour of the prosecution, the English FA will come under immense pressure to end Terry’s nine-year international career, during which he has won 77 caps. Terry was stripped of the England captaincy when the Crown Prosecution Service charged him over the Ferdinand incident.
The Chelsea defender, who can appeal if he is found guilty, would also face a long ban from domestic football; the FA suspended Liverpool’s Luis Suarez for eight games last December after he was found to have repeatedly called Manchester United’s Patrice Evra “negro”, a racially loaded term.
The FA is likely to open its own disciplinary process regardless of the verdict as the burden of proof in that process would be lower than the “criminal standard” required for a guilty verdict in the magistrates’ court case, although Terry will again deny any offence.
FA observers have been in court throughout the five-day trial, and are expected to release a statement when Riddle’s verdict is delivered. Chelsea, who have backed Terry throughout the affair, would also face a decision over whether to take action against him. Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has been in court all week and took the stand as a character witness for him. Terry’s sponsorship deals may also be in jeopardy if found guilty.
Umbro, the England-kit manufacturer, had a boot deal with the 31 year-old that expired at the end of the season. A decision over whether to renew it is reportedly pending the trial outcome.
Chelsea’s club sponsors, Samsung, previously sought to stress they do not endorse individual players. “Samsung Electronics enjoys this commercial partnership with the club only. It does not extend to any members of the playing staff at Chelsea FC.”
If Terry is cleared, it will end an ordeal for both him and Ferdinand, who said in court it should have been a matter for the FA. The trial’s four days have seen mud slung at both players and that continued on Thursday.
Terry’s accusers challenged his legal team to explain why it has been alleging a “conspiracy” against him, asking whether it might involve the England captain’s armband.
Duncan Penny, prosecuting, challenged the court to consider what might motivate Ferdinand to fabricate an allegation of racism.
Penny asked: “Is the allegation there is a hidden agenda at play motivating Mr Ferdinand? Some sort of conspiratorial motivation? To do with the England captaincy?
“If so, he was a clueless conspirator. If it was a false allegation, what sort of accuser then says they have not heard the words? If he was clueless in that meeting in the Chelsea dressing room, why?”
Penny’s challenge pre-empted some of the commentary in the defence’s closing speech. George Carter-Stephenson, who has been representing Terry, attempted to paint Anton Ferdinand, the prosecution’s chief witness, as “unreliable”.
Carter-Stephenson pointed out how the QPRplayer’s recollection of a post-match meeting in the away dressing room at Loftus Road involving himself, Terry and Ashley Cole conflicted with those of Chelsea players.
The main feature of the case has been how Terry and Ferdinand have provided differing versions of the same events. The defence claimed there was an “inherent implausibility” to Ferdinand’s account, which “does not hang together at all”.
Carter-Stephenson postulated that Ferdinand carried through his allegedly false accusation because “Mr Ferdinand is just like Mr Terry. If he admits he has accused Mr Terry of racially abusing him, he’s in serious trouble. They are both in the same position”. The defence has also highlighted during the proceedings how Ferdinand would have preferred the trial not to have taken place.
Terry’s defence team introduced a new possible explanation for why he shouted a phrase he has had cause to regret ever since it was broadcast to millions. Carter-Stephenson suggested it may have been a fan’s voice Terry heard. The defence claimed that with Ferdinand having been 25 yards away and involved in an angry exchange, that what Terry believed to have been shouted by Ferdinand could have come from the terraces.