Too little too late from the FA on racism?

Following penalty misses from Ashley Young and Ashley Cole in England’s defeat to Italy at Euro 2012, Twitter was littered with some moronic England fans racially abusing them.

All the tweets have been deleted and some users have blocked their accounts but the police are investigating complaints made.

The FA have then released a statement condemning the behaviour of these fans. It read: “We are concerned at the reports regarding allegations of abuse aimed at England players Ashley Cole and Ashley Young on Twitter. They have just given everything for the national team at Euro 2012 and it is appalling and unacceptable that messages of an abusive type are being posted. We support any police investigation in identifying who is behind this.”

That is great. They need to come out with a strong message saying racism is wrong. But maybe they needed this sort of clarity before now.

When video footage was spread across the internet of John Terry appearing to racially abuse Anton Ferdinand, there was immediate talk concerning his future. Would he keep the captaincy? Would he play for England again? How would Chelsea deal with the man their fans proudly call “captain, leader, legend”? In the Chelsea FC Vision Statement it says: “Anyone found guilty of racist activity will be banned from Stamford Bridge.”

As it stands, Terry is innocent awaiting trial, although many fans have made up their own minds already. Terry appeared to shout at Ferdinand: “You fucking black cunt! Fucking knob head!”. Before any official statement was released from the players or clubs involved, Chelsea fans were quick to support their captain, insisting the word used was “blind”, not “black”. However, Terry then gave an interview with The Daily Mail in which he claimed he didn’t call Anton a “fucking black cunt”, he was merely asking Anton whether he thought he had called him such a thing. Terry doesn’t deny using the racist slur, it is the context which he is relying upon in his defence.

Had Terry had his trial when initially scheduled, we wouldn’t have had the fuss that has ensued over the past few months, but the club requested a delay until the summer. This saw Terry play for the remainder of the season and lift the European Cup and FA Cup. The decision to delay the trial is questionable, as it is hard to imagine that a teacher charged with the same offence would be permitted to work until the summer holidays. Similarly, you would assume a builder with a lot of jobs on his books wouldn’t be allowed to put off his trial until he was less busy a few months later.

The FA were then presented with a difficult decision. Do they go to Euro 2012 with a player who could be found guilty of racially abusing a fellow professional a few weeks after they returned? Or do they withdraw a player from the squad who should be afforded the same rights as anyone else, being presumed innocent until proven otherwise, only for him to be found not guilty after the tournament?

The decision they went for was a puzzling one though. They decided that England couldn’t go to Euro 2012 with a captain who had a charge relating to racial abuse hanging over him but took no issue with a starting player representing the country whilst awaiting trial. What was the message they were trying to send here? Either the video footage and the charge were enough to stop him playing for England or they weren’t. To strip him of the captaincy was almost acknowledging he had done something wrong, but not something wrong enough to kick him out of the squad.

Let’s kick racism out of football.