England captain John Terry will not face trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand until after the Euro 2012 championships.
Chelsea defender Terry did not attend the first hearing in the case at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Wednesday. But his barrister, George Carter-Stephenson QC, entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
Terry, 31, is accused of a racially-aggravated public order offence over video footage which appears to show him shout an offensive comment at QPR defender Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October.
District Judge Howard Riddle ordered that he should stand trial in the week beginning July 9 after hearing that a number of other Chelsea players would not be able to appear as witnesses until the end of the football season.
The public gallery of Court 1 in the modern court building was packed with journalists for the hour-long hearing, which covered the timing of the trial and arrangements for witnesses.
Mr Carter-Stephenson handed the district judge a letter from Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay, who appealed for the trial to be delayed until after his players' domestic and international footballing commitments are over for the season.
The final of Euro 2012, which is being hosted by Poland and Ukraine, takes place on July 1.
Terry, who faces a maximum fine of £2,500 if convicted, has repeatedly denied making the alleged slur during the game at Loftus Road on October 23 last year.
The footballer's solicitors, Grosvenor Law, said in a statement after the hearing: "Now that the court has fixed a date for trial, Mr Terry looks forward to the opportunity to clear his name.
"Mr Terry has consistently and resolutely maintained that his well-publicised remarks were made in the belief that he was being accused of racist abuse by Mr Ferdinand.
"Mr Terry was shocked and disgusted by that accusation at the time. Mr Terry denies making any racist statement, and will establish in court that he is not guilty of such offence. Mr Terry has never racially abused another player in his entire career.''