The decision by John Terry not to appeal his FA charge hopefully brings to a close a difficult period for the domestic game in England in which, unfortunately, the reputation of English football has been damaged.
It is a shame that one high profile incident has had such a major impact. But this single event should not be allowed to overshadow the massive strides taken by players, managers, clubs, leagues and so many across the national game in terms of equality and inclusion.
The damage of this affair is not irreparable, but as events this week have shown there are still many lessons to be learnt in the wider fight against racial abuse and discrimination of all types. No player should suffer the intolerable abuse the likes of which Danny Rose was subjected to in Serbia.
Domestically The FA has ultimate responsibility for the leadership of the game at every level and I, personally, remain determined to lead English football in this fight.
This coming fortnight’s ‘Kick It Out’ campaign is a valuable reminder of the strength of the game when addressing these issues together, and it is this positivity that our game must harness.
I hope this time next year when we are marking 20 years of the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ message we will be reflecting once again on the positive power of football to publicly oppose all forms of discrimination and ensure our sport is inclusive to all.
John Terry has now been sanctioned and held accountable for his actions. I am pleased he has apologised and we must now draw a line under this matter. However, we too will learn from the case.
As has been well documented, The FA began an immediate investigation into the events surrounding last October’s match between QPR and Chelsea. We were then asked to respect both the police investigation and, later, the Crown Prosecution’s criminal proceedings.
It is also important to explain The FA disciplinary action only proceeded after taking independent external legal advice and guidance. Jonathan Laidlaw QC provided advice at every stage of The FA’s process.
I understand the concern about the time the process took but the most important thing was getting it right for all the concerned parties. Yes, I can appreciate that many observers believed The FA’s investigation was overly delayed and, ideally, we would have operated on a short time frame, not least due to the impact this process has on individuals and their families and the resultant stress and loss of trust.
Had there been no criminal investigation and prosecution, it is likely that this case would have been concluded in a matter of weeks.
We have noted criticisms made by the Independent Regulatory Commission as to how matters could and should be improved. I will ensure any lessons that arise from the ruling will be learnt quickly and appropriately.
As a game the issue of sanctioning remains under a constant state of review. Commissions must look to ensure an appropriate penalty is issued for any form of misconduct. The Commission’s verdict was that John Terry serve a four match suspension, as well as be fined.
Many have highlighted the difference between this sanction and the eight matches imposed on Luis Suarez. In the case of Suarez, however, the Commission found that repetition of the insulting language used was a further aggravating factor.
Away from these recent incidents we are well aware that it is only through the collective work of all the football authorities that we can tackle racism and discrimination in all their forms. The events in Serbia have also shown the importance of how we work with UEFA, FIFA and the Football Against Racism in Europe initiative.
The issue of discrimination in football was discussed at 10 Downing Street earlier this year when the Prime Minister met with representatives from the football authorities, former players and campaign groups.
Led by The FA, this collective is due to shortly report back to the Government on progress. We have received feedback from numerous organisations and individuals representing the full breadth of diversity in our game and, having listened, we now have to take this forward with a clear, transparent plan.
There are some major challenges ahead. We have to find ways of developing more Black and Ethnic Minority Coaches and creating pathways where they can be appointed to senior manager jobs within our clubs and within the national team structure. We have to support the growth and development of football for the Asian community at every level. There are not enough Black and Ethnic Minority Chairman or senior administrators across our industry and this has to change.
Inclusion and equality are key cornerstones of our 150th anniversary next year. There is much to be done and I pledge to play my part in ensuring we make the maximum progress in moving the agenda forward strongly, and with the urgency it deserves.
The FA Chairman addresses equality and inclusion in football