Captain of England’s national soccer team and the powerful club Chelsea, John Terry is facing a criminal charge over accusations of making a racial slur during an October match.
Responsible for laying criminal charges, the Crown Prosecution Service on Wednesday said it had charged Terry.
The development is significant as he has, perhaps, become the first player to be prosecuted for remarks made on the field.
Though Terry is denying, the allegations against the white player is that he made a racist remark during an October match toward Anton Ferdinand, a black defender.
Ferdinand plays for Queens Park Rangers, a London rival of Chelsea.
Terry, who is 31, is asserting that the context of his remarks was misunderstood. In a statement, he said: “I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends.”
A hearing for Terry is scheduled to be held on February 1, 2011. He is charged with violating Britain’s Crime and Disorder Act (of) 1998, which focuses on antisocial behavior.
If found guilty, he faces maximum fine of about $4,000. But, a conviction could cost Terry the captaincy of his club and national team, besides his reputation and his ability to earn endorsement money.
In a statement, London’s chief crown prosecutor Alison Saunders said: “I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case,”
This is not the first time such allegations against players have surfaced. Only on Tuesday, the Uruguayan forward Luis Suárez, was suspended for nothing less than eight matches.
Playing for Liverpool of the English Premier League, he was also fined about $63,000 for making abusive remarks in an October game toward Patrice Evra, a black defender from France who plays for Manchester United.
The English Premier League is considered the world’s finest club competition and features many of the top international players. As many as two-thirds are foreign-born.
Chairman of the London-based antidiscrimination organization called Kick It Out, Lord Herman Ouseley, said Terry and Suárez cases represent a very important step that sends two messages.
“If you are inclined to behave like that, you are not going to get away with it…. And it’s encouraging to black players, who have often felt, ‘Why bother, it’s a waste of time.’ Most thought nothing would come out of these allegations.
The New York Times quoted Ouseley as saying in a telephone interview that he would withhold judgment on English soccer’s long-term determination to stamp out racism until Terry’s case played out through the judiciary and Suárez decided whether to appeal his ban by England’s soccer federation, known as the Football Association. He has 14 days to file an appeal.
He added: “We will have to wait and see whether there is consistency and durability in application of a high standard of conduct, backed by strong investigation and discipline with penalties, or whether this is a one-off, and we go back to leniency and complacency.”