Video: FA under mounting pressure to axe John Terry as England captain
THE pressure was growing on the English FA on Wednesday night to announce whether John Terry would remain as England captain after his criminal trial over allegations that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand was set for July 9, after the Euro 2012 finals have ended.
The head of European football’s anti-racism group led the calls for Terry to have the captaincy taken away from him while the Reading striker Jason Roberts warned that the England dressing room would be “toxic unless the correct decision is made”.
Piara Powar, who is also a former director of the FA-backed Kick It Out anti-racism campaign, said of Terry and the decision taken yesterday at Westminster magistrates to delay the trial until the summer: “Innocent until proven guilty. But should John Terry remain as England capt through the Euros? I can’t see how he can.”
In a series of messages on the social network site Twitter, Powar added: “The seriousness of the allegations mean that he can’t lead the nation.
"So the FA must do the right thing.”
He went on: “To be captain means to be the leader. You have to take everyone with you. Removing the captaincy does not prejudice the case.”
Finally Powar stated of Terry: “No condemnation here. England capt must be beyond reproach. Other previous issues not court cases, private matters.”
Terry’s trial, which is expected to last up to five days, was delayed after his legal team, headed by George Carter-Stephenson QC, handed the judge at Wednesday's preliminary hearing a letter from Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay, asking for it to be held in the summer to minimise disruption to the club.
Terry, who did not attend Wednesday's hearing with his lawyers entering a not guilty plea and later releasing a statement, has vehemently protested his innocence over the incident which is alleged to have taken place during his club’s 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers last October and which is also subject to the FA’s own investigation once the criminal proceedings are completed.
The prosecution had initially hoped the case would be heard in mid-March but the trial has now been scheduled for eight days after the final of Euro 2012 because of the playing commitments of Terry and his team-mates for club and country over the next few months.
So far the FA’s stance, along with that of England manager Fabio Capello, is that Terry should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty which is why he was selected for the November friendly against Sweden.
However, that was before he was formally charged with a racially aggravated public order offence for which, if he is found guilty, would spell the end of his England career.
The FA was making no comment yesterday but its approach is likely to remain unchanged for now although the organisation could consider the reaction to the trial’s delay and the effect it might have on other players in the squad.
Terry’s presence at the Euros would create certain logistical issues for the FA, including what effect it could have on the dressing room and in press conferences.
The reaction of Rio Ferdinand, Anton’s brother and Terry’s regular central defensive partner for England in recent years, will also need noting by the FA.
The governing body scrapped the Respect handshake before last weekend’s FA Cup tie between Chelsea and QPR after Anton Ferdinand’s teammates indicated they did not want to shake Terry’s hand.
Roberts alluded to potential problems in a series of messages also posted on Twitter. He said: “I have seen the Ferdinand case has been put back. On this basis I do not believe that the England captain should go to the Euros.”
Roberts added: “Also more importantly, believe me this dressing room at the Euros will be toxic unless the correct decision is made!”
That would appear to suggest that tensions are likely to mount between the players, given the matter has not been dealt with before the tournament.
Terry’s legal team intend to call a number of Chelsea players and staff as character witnesses and Gourlay suggested the club’s crowded fixture schedule would make it difficult for them to appear unless the trial was put back until the close season.
The Premier League campaign does not end until May 13, while there is also a chance Chelsea could be involved in the Champions League final, which takes place six days later.
Euro 2012 then begins on June 8, with the final scheduled for July 1 in Kiev.
The timing of the trial was also complicated by Ferdinand’s commitments to QPR, which includes a pre-season tour of the Far East in late July and a holiday he has booked in June.
Judge Howard Riddle even took into account the possible involvement of both players in the British Olympic men’s football squad, all of which left July 9 as the most suitable date for the case to be heard.
Wednesday's hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, central London, lasted just over an hour and was a largely procedural affair, covering the timing of the trial and arrangements for witnesses.
Terry, who missed Chelsea’s match against Swansea on Tuesday night because of a knee injury, was not obliged to attend and, as expected, he declined to appear.
The 31 year-old, who is facing a fine of up to £2,500, rather than a custodial sentence, if found guilty, has vehemently denied the allegations of racist behaviour ever since they first surfaced.
While he does not deny shouting the phrase “black ----”, he maintains he used it as a retort to something Ferdinand said, a point he reiterated in a statement issued through his legal team — solicitors Grosvenor Law - on Wednesday.
“Now that the court has fixed a date for trial, Mr Terry looks forward to the opportunity to clear his name,” it read.
“Mr Terry has consistently and resolutely maintained that his well-publicised remarks were made in the belief that he was being accused of racist abuse by Mr Ferdinand.
"Mr Terry denies making any racist statement, and will establish in court that he is not guilty of such offence. Mr Terry has never racially abused another player in his entire career.”