Written reasons for the John Terry Disciplinary decision released

Published 09 October 2012 By: Andrew Nixon

The independent regulatory commission appointed to hear the John Terry disciplinary case has today released its written reasons for its decision to fine John Terry £220,000 and ban him for four matches for use of racist language in a Premier League game between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers last October. The player had admitted using the racist language during the match but his position was that he was merely repeating words he thought Ferdinand had accused him of saying.

The commission determined that:

  • It was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the words used were intended as an insult;
  • That there is no credible basis for the player's defence that his use of the words were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful rejection and/or inquiry;
  • Parts of the player's defence were improbable, implausible and contrived;
  • The evidence against the player was clear and convincing.

The commission did address the criminal proceedings, noting the not guilty verdict. However the commission, like the Magistrate during the criminal trial in July, did question Ashley Cole's evidence, which purported to support the player's version of events. Furthermore, the role played by Chelsea official David Barnard was also called into question by the commission. According to the findings, Ashley Cole did not make mention of 'colour' in his original interview with the FA; however, six days later Mr Barnard requested the FA to insert reference to 'colour' into Cole's statement. This was cogent new evidence upon which the commission could consider and rely when coming to its ruling, and indeed was not evidence the Magistrate had available to him during the criminal trial.


The commission made clear in its ruling that it did not consider the player to be a racist, but that is irrelevant given the wording of the original charge, which alleged the player used abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Ferdinand, contrary to FA rules and those words contained reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.

The commission was therefore satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the words were used and there was reference to colour. Perhaps the biggest debate to arise from the ruling is why the player was seemingly treated more leniently than Luis Suarez, who received an eight match ban for comments directed at Manchester United. A four game ban is considered the 'entry level' sanction for offences of this type, although it can be increased where ' aggravating factors' are present. The commission obviously considered that there were no obvious aggravating factors in the Terry case that were present in the Suarez case, the reasons, according to the written ruling, being Suarez repeated used of racist language, whereas Terry appeared only to make his statement once.

The player has the right to appeal the ruling, and will have 14 days from receipt of the written submissions to do so, but so of course does the governing body if it does not consider the sanction to be sufficient. It remains to be seen what approach both sides take.


Andrew Nixon

Andrew Nixon

Andrew Nixon is a Partner in the Sport Group at Sheridans. Referred to in this year's Legal 500 as a “very bright and talented sports lawyer” Andrew's practice focuses principally on regulatory, governance, disciplinary, arbitration and dispute resolution within the sport sector. Andrew's clients include governing bodies, sports clubs, sports agencies and individual athletes.

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