Terry cleared of racism charge

John Terry was found not guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Westminster magistrates accepted his defence that he was merely asking Ferdinand if the player thought Terry had used the offensive language.

The court case has hung over Terry for much of the English season, and at one point looked like costing him his place in the England Euro 2012 squad. As it turned out, Terry played in that tournament and will feel vindicated by the court’s verdict.

The magistrate Howard Riddle said it was impossible to be sure what Terry had said at the match on October 23 2011. "It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as an insult," Riddle concluded, "but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him. In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty."

It was hardly the ringing endorsement of Terry’s character that the Chelsea player might have preferred, but it allows him to continue his career without a conviction that would have resulted in considerable pressure for his dismissal.

Much of the case revolved around confused and conflicting testimony about the exchanges of insults between Terry and Ferdinand. Ferdinand was believed to have made reference to Terry’s much-publicised affair with the girlfriend of a team-mate, Wayne Bridge, and Terry had responded angrily.

For many observers the case provided an intriguing insight into the violent language that is taken for granted on the field of play and the obscene banter that characterises communication between footballers, whether rivals or team-mates.

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