Chelsea captain John Terry was found not guilty Friday of racially abusing fellow football player Anton Ferdinand, in a highly-charged trial that raised questions about lingering racism in England's Premier League.
REUTERS - Former England captain John Terry was found not guilty of racially abusing fellow player Anton Ferdinand on Friday after a five day case which cast a spotlight on racism in soccer and could have had a huge impact on his career.
The 31-year-old Chelsea captain, who earns a reported 150,000 pounds ($231,100) a week, was in Westminster Magistrates’ Court to hear chief magistrate Howard Riddle read his verdict.
The high-profile case, focusing on foul language from both players during a Premier League game last October, triggered the resignation in February of England’s Italian manager Fabio Capello after the FA decided to strip Terry of the captain’s armband for Euro 2012.
Terry had denied committing a racially aggravated public order offence when he had an expletive-littered exchange with Ferdinand on the field of play when Chelsea visited QPR’s Loftus Road ground.
Although, in evidence, he admitted using the highly offensive words, he maintained he was sarcastically repeating what Ferdinand mistakenly thought he had said.
During cross-examination, Ferdinand agreed he had sworn at players in the past and been on the receiving end himself.
He said he was angry at Terry seeking a penalty call and there had been some barging on the pitch.
He had also alluded to an alleged affair between the Chelsea player and the ex-girlfriend of former England team mate Wayne Bridge.
Terry had been stripped of the England captaincy before the 2010 World Cup following those allegations.
Allegations of racial abuse cast a shadow over the Premier League last season, with Liverpool’s Luis Suarez banned for eight matches for abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during another Premier League match last October.
That case was dealt with by the English FA rather than going to court.
“The very serious allegation at the heart of this case was one of racial abuse. It was our view that this was not “banter” on the football pitch and that the allegation should be judged by a court,” said Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London.
“The Chief Magistrate agreed that Mr Terry had a case to answer, but having heard all of the evidence he acquitted Mr Terry of a racially aggravated offence. That is justice being done and we respect the Chief Magistrate’s decision.”