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Oct 5, 2012

Terry defence was 'implausible'

The Football Association tribunal that found John Terry guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand believed there was "no credible basis" for his defence against the charge.

• Cole in stunning attack on FA

The FA has published the written reasons for the punishment handed to Terry - a four-match ban and a £220,000 fine - after the tribunal's ruling on the incident, which took place during a match at Loftus Road in October.

The 63-page written reasons reveal the tribunal believed Terry's defence was "improbable, implausible and contrived".

The tribunal delivered its verdict last month, and the written reasons were served to the former England defender and his club, Chelsea, on Thursday night. He now has 14 days to decide whether to appeal against his punishment.

In July, Westminster Magistrates' Court cleared Terry, 31, of racially abusing Ferdinand. He had strongly denied the FA charge of "using abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand and which included a reference to colour and/or race".

The prosecution in Terry's London court case had been unable to prove that he had called Ferdinand a "f****** black c***'' as an insult. Terry claimed to have been repeating words he thought Ferdinand had accused him of saying.

But in its damning conclusion, the FA tribunal said there was "no credible basis" for Terry's defence that the words had been used in that way, and that it was sure they "were said by way of insult".

The reasons state: "The commission is quite satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that there is no credible basis for Mr Terry's defence that his use of the words 'f****** black c***' were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful rejection and/or inquiry.

"Instead, we are quite satisfied, and find on the balance of probabilities, that the offending words were said by way of insult.

"We are able to arrive at that decision without needing to make any adverse findings against Mr Terry arising out of his decision not to give evidence. Accordingly, the commission finds that there is clear and convincing evidence."

The tribunal panel also had "considerable doubts" about evidence given in support of Terry by his Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole, suggesting it evolved to suit the case that Ferdinand may have used the phrase on the pitch.

The document released on Friday says the Chelsea left-back added the word "black" into his witness statement outlining what he claimed to have heard Ferdinand saying to Terry at a later date.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight games after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra last season.

The written reasons for the Terry verdict show that he was given a shorter punishment because he used a racial insult once, whereas Suarez had done so repeatedly.

The reasons add: "In contrast with a previous high-profile FA disciplinary case involving racial abuse, Mr Terry's racist insult was issued only once.

"Although once is clearly once too many, the commission accepts that it was said in the heat of the moment. Had it been said more than once, the penalty would have applied to successive insults."

The reasons say that, although Terry racially abused Ferdinand, it is "accepted by everyone in the criminal and disciplinary proceedings that John Terry is not a racist".

They add: "It is not the FA's case that Mr Terry is a racist. There is a large body of testimonial evidence, including statements from black footballers, to say that he is not."

A statement from the former England captain's management after the FA had reached its verdict on September 27 said he was "disappointed" by the punishment and would be considering whether or not to lodge an appeal.

It added: "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."

Terry announced his decision to retire from international football shortly before the start of the FA hearing, saying the association had made his position with the national team "untenable".

In court cases, the criminal burden of proof is "beyond all reasonable doubt". The FA commission that investigated the case used the lesser civil test of on the "balance of probabilities".

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo insisted he does not believe Terry capable of discrimination. Di Matteo said: "From my judgment on this man, I've known him for many, many years since we played together.

"I've never had any doubt about the fact that his comments wouldn't be of any kind of discrimination against any kind of ethnic party.''

Asked if he still stood by Terry, he added: "At the moment, he's our captain and he's available to play.''