How damaging has the handling of the John Terry affair been for English football?
David Bernstein is no passenger in the pursuit of justice. Suffice to say that it is in his job description as chairman of the FA to be the driving force behind a vehicle that has so often been directed down the roads of corruption, mismanagement, money, greed and a media hyped frenzy that is always cited as the catalyst for tournament failure. The list could go on. English football is rarely seen in any other light than the spotlight that illuminates every theatre across the West End.
It can’t be anymore easier either when football outside the country in recent times has had its name thrown into disrepute. The corruption allegations that rocked FIFA last year were so damaging it prompted Bernstein to demand an overhaul in the election process during FIFA’s congress at the football governing bodies’ headquarters in June last summer.
Of the 208 associations tied with FIFA not one delegate spoke up in favour of Bernstein’s calls for reform. When the voting ballots eventually came in it revealed embarrassing results. A mere 17 associations voted in favour of Bernstein and that same number of votes was left undecided whilst an overwhelming 172 opposed the motion.
Cyprus's delegate Costakis Koutsoukoumis actually spoke out in opposition to Bernstein. "Allegations," he said. "What a beautiful English word. We must not allow people outside this room to enter FIFA's agenda."
Forgetting completely how aesthetically pleasing the word ‘allegation’ may be to Cypriotes it is a phrase that has defined John Terry’s life in recent months. The allegations against him may influence the remainder of his career in football and perhaps the rest of his life.
If he is found guilty after Euro 2012 this summer, Terry will be left with very few options to clear his name. It is difficult to envisage a bright future for Chelsea’s captain what with the present condemnation of his actions. It’s that condemnation which has seen the Englishman stripped of the captaincy from David Bernstein and the FA. ‘They were left with no other choice’ are the words that echo from every newspaper publication in the country. It’s no surprise then that the media should vilify Terry even before a verdict has been reached. But what happens if he is found innocent?
Has anybody even asked that question? In a democratic society that takes pride in a fair judicial process for all members of its community the decision to remove Terry as captain is nothing short of hypocritical and laughable. If English football cannot be seen to have their captain embroiled in racism charges then that is fair enough. But why then was he not banned from wearing the England shirt entirely? Is it ok to be charged for racial assault as an England player but not as a captain? Is Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand or Frank Lampard under less pressure to steer clear of such indiscretions as the punishment seems only to be fit for the arm band?
These were the questions raised by Fabio Capello when he gave Italy’s state broadcaster, RAI, an interview stating that he “absolutely” does not agree with the FA’s decision.
"I have spoken to the [FA] chairman and I have said that in my opinion one cannot be punished until it is official and the court - a non-sport court, a civil court - had made a decision to decide if John Terry has done what he is accused of."
Fabio Capello, a man with decades and decades of experience in football as a player and a coach, has every right to voice his opinions on the matter not only as England manager but as a human being. Regardless of how much money the FA decided to throw at him when they hired him and regardless of his perceived ‘lack of understanding’ towards British culture the man is allowed a view point.
He will ultimately take responsibility for what happens at the Euro’s this summer as he took full responsibility for the shambles that unfolded in South Africa two years ago. From a football perspective having a fully fit John Terry in the squad is better for England and Capello obviously feels that way. The Italian wants to be absolutely sure that he can travel to the tournament with his best possible squad.
For the media and various members of the FA to suggest Capello ‘may have breached contract’ in his interview is absolutely absurd. What did they expect? Was a man who has such standing in the game going to lie down and accept this decision? Maybe if the British media showed a bit of editorial respect towards a manager who has achieved so much in the game Capello might have been inclined to be more tactical in his disagreement towards the FA’s decision. Kick a man enough times and he will stand up in defiance.
The saddest thing in all of this is that not for one second has anyone from the FA, nor the media industry in Britain, even considered what Capello has had to say. Since playing his first professional game in Italy in 1964 Capello has enjoyed a career as a player/manager that has seen him win 21 major trophies. He won 32 caps for Italy and scored 8 goals. He is accomplished in the world of football. Surely the man who was brought in to solve English footballs problems could have had some wisdom to share on one of the most controversial issues to surround the country’s game in recent times?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and as much as this statement enjoys it seat at the top of footballs table of clichés it is so poignant here. The FA will hold serious talks with Capello regarding his interview with RAI and many predict this might be the end of the road for Fabio and England. Whatever the outcome, this has and forever will be seen as a situation that has been handled with an embarrassingly average level of diplomacy that will have ripple effects for years to come.
The story rolls on to the delight of many journalists around the country chomping at the bit to produce more profitable print. At what cost though? How many more reputations will be tarnished? How many more credible figures in the game such as Capello will be made a laughing stock? And how much deeper does English football wish to plunge itself into a sewer of melodrama, conflict and confusion based on a word that one Cypriote described as nothing short of beautiful – allegations.