Last week I wrote about the impending trial of the Chelsea and England soccer player, John Terry, on charges of racially abusing an opposing player. Shortly after that piece appeared Terry was stripped of his position as England team captain by the sport’s governing body, the Football Association. Now the England team mananger Fabio Capello, who is Italian, has resigned after criticising the decision in an interview for Italian television.
While the prosecution of Terry is absurd, and is motivated primarily by political correctness, it could be argued that the decision to relieve him of the England captaincy is justified because the pressure of the upcoming court case would have made it difficult to focus on his responsiblilties. However it’s hard to believe that the FA’s decision wasn’t influenced by the nature of the alleged offence, and the need to be seen to be ‘doing something’.
Capello certainly thought so, pointing out in the interview that Terry was innocent until proven guilty. However, as the hysteria over the Terry case has shown – commentators both within and outside football have called for Terry not just to be stripped of the captaincy, but dropped from the national team altogether – in Britain, when it comes to accusations of racism the principle of innocent until proven guilty is becoming something of an anachronism.
Coincidentally, the favorite to replace Capello as England boss ahead of this summer’s European Championships tournament is the Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp – who, just a few hours before Capello’s resignation was announced, was cleared of tax evasion following a high-profile trial of his own. At least Redknapp was afforded the courtesy of having his trial confined to a court of law.