Press Power Pushes Dangerous Line

Do not let your eyes deceive you, it was not the FA that stripped Terry of the England captaincy on Friday morning.

In fact, confirmation that association chairman, David Bernstein, called the now former skipper to inform him of the board’s decision was simply confirmation of how powerful the media, in all its guises, has become.

Having grown restless at what was an incredibly quiet transfer window, media outlets everywhere were looking to fill a massive ‘Deadline Day’ shaped hole this week. With Harry’s tax evasion trial set to extend longer than anticipated and no other major domestic stories on the horizon, the vultures swooped on The City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court .

Any person with an ounce of common sense could have seen this storm coming. When Terry’s legal team entered an inevitable ‘not guilty’ plea, the prospect of a delay in proceedings until the summer was unavoidable. Yet, it is only now that the arguments about toxic atmospheres, moral decisions and distractions have been brought out as justification for removing the national armband from the Chelsea captain.

There is a logic to the decison and were we not so close to a major championship the idea would be easier to digest. Several black players in the media and reportedly within the squad itself have felt uncomfortable with such a serious allegation hanging over the skipper’s head.

The key problem with this, however, is that Fabio Capello feels so strongly that Terry, as his main man, is an essential ingredient in the England mix. Remember, he risked allienating both Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand last year by turning away from the pair to re-appoint Terry and should either of them be re-instated it would have a very hollow ring to it.

There is no doubt whatsoever that without the media storm surrounding Terry, the FA would never have made the decision that today is being branded as “the natural conclusion.” If they were so sure about this course of action, why not take before the friendly against Spain last November?

The role of Fabio Capello may be trotted out as a partial excuse for the delay in this course of action, but the stark reality is that the FA have been pushed into a corner by the viewpoints of sportswriters and media outlets in a fashion that I’m not sure we have seen before.

Moral judgements in football of all sports are incredibly dangerous. How can we, on the one hand, castigate one player for how he lives his life and behaves and yet give others a free pass because their behaviour isn’t quite as bad? It is as if there has been an introduction of a new fit and proper person test.

Footballers should be role models, however the fact many of the biggest names in the game have less than squeaky clean private lives is neither here nor there. Should a footballer who remains innocent in the eyes of the law be punished so severely by his national FA?

Had Terry admitted to racially abusing Ferdinand  in October he would have quite rightly lost the captaincy straight away- racism in all its guises is abhorrent, and should be eradicated. However, whilst the case against the defender continues, how can a newspaper-generated opinion sweep decide on the best course of action?

Are the same football writers suggesting Harry Redknapp step away from contention for the England manager’s post through his legal problems? Do they notice a conflict of morals in talking about the Tottenham boss in conjunction for the top job in English football whilst serious legal proceedings remain active? No. These same journalists who condemn Terry are busy ‘retweeting’ quotes from Redknapp as to how much he loves his dog.

The lack of consistency is staggering, however it is something that needs to fixed. We are not talking about snap player performance judgements or critiques of technique, many of these sources are painting themselves as football moral compasses and what is worse, it is not just the FA who have been caught up in it- we as fans are buying into the concept too.

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