John Terry is eager to clear his name after he was found guilty of racially abusing the Queen Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand but the Chelsea captain will await the Football Association's written judgment before deciding whether to appeal against the four-match ban and £220,000 fine he was given on Thursday.
An independent regulatory commission delivered its verdict after a four-day hearing in relation to the incident at Loftus Road last October, which led to Terry being charged with a racially aggravated public order offence after he was alleged to have called Ferdinand "a fucking black cunt".
Terry denied the charge, arguing he was repeating the words Ferdinand accused him of saying rather than using them as an insult, and was subsequently cleared at Westminster magistrates court in July. The FA's own investigation, however, has arrived at a different outcome, leaving Terry, who announced his retirement from international football on the eve of the hearing, with a stain against his name unless he can successfully appeal.
The exact reasons why Terry was found guilty of "using abusive language" towards Ferdinand which "included a reference to colour and/or race", and why the ban is four games fewer than the eight-match ban Luis Suárez received for racially abusing Patrice Evra last year, will not become clear until the report is released. That could be early next week, after which Terry will have 14 days to decide whether to lodge an appeal.
In the meantime Terry is free to carry on playing for Chelsea, starting with Saturday's Premier League match at Arsenal, when he is expected to lead the side out after completing his first full training session of the week at Cobham on Friday. An FA statement said: "The penalty is suspended until after the outcome of any appeal, or the time for appealing expires, or should Mr Terry decide not to appeal."
Given the stance that Terry has adopted up until now, it would be a surprise if he backed down and accepted the charge. A statement issued by Terry's management company said: "Mr Terry is disappointed that the FA regulatory commission has reached a different conclusion to the clear not guilty verdict of a court of law. He has asked for the detailed written reasons of the decision and will consider them carefully before deciding whether to lodge an appeal."
Although the FA's regulations state that an FA appeal board decision is final and binding, that may not preclude Terry from going straight to the court of arbitration for sport and seeking clarification as to whether Cas could have jurisdiction to rule on the case. The first step, however, would be an FA appeal, which could potentially take place during the international break next month.
Terry's legal team, led by George Carter-Stephenson QC, had felt that the 31-year-old's acquittal in court in the summer would work in their favour, but the standard of proof was lower in the FA's investigation, where the four-man panel were working on "the balance of probabilities", rather than "beyond reasonable doubt", to establish if an offence had been committed.
Chelsea, who have a zero tolerance policy towards racism, issued a brief statement on the back of the verdict. "Chelsea Football Club notes and respects today's decision by the Football Association regarding John Terry. We also recognise that John has the right to appeal that decision. It is therefore inappropriate for us to comment further on the matter at this time."
Joey Barton, who was given a 12-match ban after he was found guilty of two charges of violent conduct following his dismissal at Manchester City on the final day of last season, poured scorn on the punishment handed out to Terry. The Marseille midfielder tweeted: "4 games? A years worth of investigation, a four day FA hearing and only a 4 game ban? Suarez got 8 didn't he? WTF's going on... Well I think that proves a lot. What an absolute farce. 12 games for violent conduct and only 4 for that. FA should be embarrassed. By the FA's perverse reckoning, I'd have got less of a ban for racially abusing the Man City players than tickling them as I did."
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