Today it has been announced by the FA that they have stripped John Terry of the England captaincy. Earlier this week Terry entered a not-guilty plea to magistrates on a racially-aggravated public order charge relating to allegations he called QPR defender Anton Ferdinand a ‘f**king black c**t’. The case has been adjourned until July 9th, nine days after the conclusion of EURO 2012.
A statement from the FA read “Following the decision to adjourn the court case against John Terry to July, The Football Association confirm he will not captain the England team until the allegations against him are resolved.
The FA Board expected the trial to be concluded prior to the European Championship. Further to Wednesday’s confirmation that the trial will not take place until after the tournament, the Board has discussed the matter in detail and has collectively decided it is in the interests of all parties that John has the responsibilities of captaincy removed at this time.
This decision has been taken due to the higher profile nature of the England captaincy, on and off the pitch, and the additional demands and requirements expected of the captain leading into and during a tournament.
The FA Board can confirm that he has not been excluded from the squad and that Fabio Capello is free to select him for the Holland fixture on 29 February and the European Championship.
This decision in no way infers any suggestion of guilt in relation to the charge made against John Terry.”
It is believed that some black players involved in the England team have expressed their unease about the prospect of Terry remaining captain to the players union, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), who in turn put pressure on the FA to act.
This is a marked change in stance by the FA, who had steadfastly defended Terry’s right to be considered ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and remain as England captain.
The initial 'Innocent until proven guilty' stance was understandable. The FA has two major areas of income; the England team and selling TV rights to the FA Cup and England Internationals. The last sale of TV rights for England and the FA Cup made the FA £575m.
It must have been a source of huge embarrassment to the FA that the symbolic figure of English football, the England captain, stood accused of such an offence. There are also concerns that if the England captain is found guilty, some of the FA’s commercial contracts may be withdrawn, so the FA loses money.
Over the past few years, the England team has been much better when Terry has been part of it. A strong England team means that the FA can sell more tickets for home England internationals, and sell those tickets at a higher price, which makes them more money. A strong England team also means that there are increased and more lucrative commercial opportunities for the FA.
It was in the FA’s best interests therefore, that the John Terry case was settled sooner rather than later and that Terry was cleared. It was a stroke of luck that an anonymous email was sent to the police complaining about Terry’s alleged use of racist language in the QPR game, which meant the police had to investigate.
This in turn allowed the FA to wash their hands, for the time being at least, of having to investigate the England captain. The best case scenario for the FA would have been for the police and now the courts to find Terry is innocent, or that no charges could be proven, so the FA could similarly declare that Terry has no case to answer. However, that hasn’t happened. Charges have been brought and the case will drag on until the summer.
I can understand why the FA have taken the decision to remove Terry as captain. The FA don’t want Terry’s presence, with the inevitable media circus that would surround him this summer, to be a distraction, disrupting England’s campaign (until their inevitable early exit anyway!). If there would be a situation where some of his teammates wouldn’t feel comfortable with his presence in the dressing room, or with him as captain, then something had to be done about it.
With that in mind, why then, have the FA allowed a situation where Terry has been stripped as captain but can still be selected?
How will that make any difference in avoiding or easing the potential dressing room tension that the FA were evidently concerned about?
How can the FA say Terry isn’t fit to lead his country because of a non-football incident, but is still fit to represent them?
This is another one of those situations where the FA has acted, but their actions raise more questions than answers.
There is also a question of the timing. Last week the FA Board met and decided to let the case run its course before making a definitive decision on Terry’s future as captain. So what’s changed in a week?
It seems as though the decision has been taken based solely on the fact that the case will not be heard until after the EURO’s. This in turn implies that had Terry’s case been heard before the tournament, he’d still be captain today. It was announced weeks ago that Terry was to be prosecuted. The FA could’ve taken this decision then for the same reasons. Instead, they waited in the hopes that could take no action and it’s backfired.
In terms of current form, you could strongly argue that Terry is undeserving of a place in the England team anyway. Terry is in the downward slope of his career. Terry was never blessed with pace, but what little pace he had has seemingly deserted him, and his positioning, once the strongest facet of his game, is becoming increasingly suspect. What John Terry brings to the table more than any other player is wholehearted commitment and natural leadership. So if Terry is no longer in a leadership role, there’s a strong argument he shouldn’t be in the England squad at all.
It is unclear at present who the next England captain should be. Rio Ferdinand doesn’t want the job, which leaves Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker as the main candidates with Gareth Barry an outside bet. Parker is probably a more natural on-field leader than Gerrard, but Gerrard has far more international experience, plus prior experience of captaining England, Gerrard captained England during the 2010 World Cup.