LONDON — England captain John Terry will be the first footballer to face a court in Britain on a charge of racially abusing an opponent, the most serious step yet in a crackdown on racism in the sport.
Prosecutors made the decision to charge Terry on Wednesday after studying footage that was broadcast live around the world in October, showing Terry apparently hurling abuse at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match.
Terry has said his comments were taken out of context and vowed to fight the charges, after prosecutors declared the defender had constituted a “racially aggravated public order offense.”
Just a day earlier, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, a Uruguay international, received an eight-match ban and 40,000-pound ($62,000) fine from the FA for racially abusing a Manchester United player during another match in October.
Although Suarez’s abusive conduct is yet to be investigated by the police, anti-racism campaigners are hailing the twin-pronged actions as evidence that new weapons are being deployed against racism in soccer.
“It’s a very important point in the history of campaigning against racism in football,” Kick It Out chairman Herman Ouseley told The Associated Press. “People who are very cynical – and a lot of black footballers have been right up until I think yesterday – think it’s a waste of time (complaining about racism) because the campaign hasn’t stopped these things from happening, it goes on, it’s quiet, it’s subtle and nothing ever gets done.
“It’s quite important that (players) now feel a bit more confident that, although it has taken a while, due process with decisive action could well make a change.”
Racist abuse in European football is nothing new, although most high-profile cases have involved abusive chants from supporters toward opposing players – not on-field incidents.