Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole's Handshake to Overshadow Chelsea, Man United

Mr XSenior Writer IOctober 25, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02:  England Captain Rio Ferdinand, joined by Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole at Niketown London Today, June 2, 2010 at the Nike 'No More Talk' event, as they said their farewells to Football fans before departing for South Africa.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for Nike)
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

On any given Sunday, a Chelsea, Manchester United match is big news. Given the events both on and off the pitch over the last seven days, this coming game threatens to eclipse the great history between the two clubs.

The build-up to this game started over one year ago on October 23, 2011, when John Terry used abusive and insulting language towards Anton Ferdinand, Rio's brother, in Chelsea's match against Queens Park Rangers.

Eventually, the case was taken up by the Crown Prosecution and brought to court.

After three days of submissions, the Chief Magistrate found Terry not guilty despite him admitting using the words “ f*** off, f*** off”, “f****ing black ****” or “f****ing knobhead”.

Terry's case was that his words were in no way intended to be abusive or insulting towards Ferdinand, and that he "genuinely believed that Mr Ferdinand made a false allegation against him."

In the end, Chief Magistrate Riddle was forced to find John Terry not guilty, despite having no doubt that the player had called Ferdinand a "f***ing black ****" while angry.

The findings were based upon reasonable doubt, and Terry's defence was that it was "possible that what he said was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him."

The entire case then had a snow ball effect upon football that is still being felt today.

Prominent foundations like the Professional Footballers' Association and Kick It Out released statements that would be tested in the fullness of time. 

John Terry lost the England captaincy in February 2012 and as a result Fabio Capello resigned as manager. Roy Hodgson then took over as England manager from Capello and inextricably left Rio Ferdinand out of his squad for Euro 2012 for "football reasons," which did not sit well with many.

Kick It Out's statement through Lord Ousley read;

"Kick It Out notes the decision reached and now awaits the pronouncements from The Football Association (FA) to any subsequent investigation into the matter.

"It will be interesting to hear from other organisations this will impact on, from governing bodies to leagues and clubs, and how they deem matters like this to be dealt with in the future."

And the PFA's statement further endorsed the trial decision.

"We have considered the judgement delivered this afternoon in the John Terry trial and recognise that this matter has been dealt with thoroughly by the legal process.

"The incident and the ensuing publicity has been damaging for football and particularly so for our members. All players have a responsibility to conduct themselves appropriately and be mindful of the fact that they are role models to so many people around the world. 

"We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our full support for the RESPECT campaign and we will continue to promote and educate our members that they must treat each other with respect and consideration in the same way that they must treat match officials.

"Finally, the PFA is and always will be committed to anti-racism and other anti-discrimination initiatives which have achieved considerable success over the last few decades in seeking to eradicate these problems. We recognise that this is an ongoing commitment. There is no place for such behaviour in football and there is and has to be support for those who feel they have encountered racial abuse or any other form of discrimination."

The FA, however, moved against the trial decision which required a unanimous burden of proof by charging just 14 days later.

Under FA Handbook Regulation 7.3, the applicable standard, which would be used in the case was on the "balance of probabilities."

In the end the FA released a 64-page statement which outdid Chief Magistrate Riddle's 15-page trial statement.

On October 5, 2012, almost one year from the original incident, the FA charged Terry with making a racist insult to Anton Ferdinand under the balance of probabilities.

They then suspended him for four domestic games and fined him £220,000.

This fine and suspension immediately drew comparisons with the recent racist comment affair between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra where the Liverpool player was banned for eight games and fined £40,000.

The difference between the two judgements was because Suarez's abuse was sustained while Terry's was only said once.

Clarke Carlisle, the PFA's chairman, told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek that he was unhappy with the extent of Terry's suspension and fine.

In the interview he said, "I think what we felt as an industry was that the Luis Suarez eight-match ban really did send out a strong message to the members of the union and the public at large that racism isn't tolerated in the game.

"To dilute that with this four-match ban, it has almost undermined the initial message that went out."

The FA fine and suspension combined with the governing body's handling of the Suarez incident, the recent troubles at the U-21 England-Serbia match, and other racism issues within the game all came together to create a perfect storm.

That culminated last weekend when Rio Ferdinand, Jason Roberts, Jolean Lescott and numerous other Premier League players refused to wear a Kick it Out t-shirt endorsing the annual anti-racism campaign.

Then, while everyone was scrambling to offer analysis on the players stance, the Daily Mail ran an exclusive story that maintained that Rio Ferdinand was about to set up a break-away federation for black players.

The insult to Anton Ferdinand was probably then magnified on Tuesday in Chelsea's Champions League loss to Shaktar Donetsk. When, one year to the day since he racially abused the Rangers defender, and in the middle of his domestic FA suspension, John Terry played as captain.

Rio Ferdinand then downplayed the break-away story, but the protest and subsequent possible break-away may have had its desired effect as the PFA have now announced a new six-point plan to combat racism after criticism from many areas.

Amongst the proposed changes, which have been met with positive reaction, are stiffer fines and the introduction of a football based "Rooney Rule," which has been in force in American sports since 2003.

Rio Ferdinand has endorsed the ideal even though FA Consultant Brendan Batson warned that the sport was not ready for it at the start of the 2012-'13 season.

Following on from his support of the PFA's new initiatives towards racism within football, Ferdinand in conjunction with his brother Anton then released a statement on

They referenced the fact that the entire process had taken over just one year and that they would support the discussions going forward. They also agreed that Kick it Out is an important body that does important work towards race integration, but that the organisation needed to be made "more relevant” in the future.

This stinging assessment of one of the game's most important organisations was followed by the brothers announcing their disappointment in the PFA and FA over the last year.

Now, as the biggest match of the season so far approaches, Terry will return to the stands to serve the next part of his suspension, while Ferdinand could return to the Red Devils' lineup after being rested for their 3-2 Champions League win over Braga.

The race element has not gone away, though, and it may yet resurface when the traditional pregame handshakes take place. 

The Daily Mail are now reporting that Ferdinand is seeking discussions with Sir Alex Ferguson, a firm believer in trade-unionism, about whether to shake Ashley Cole's hand or not.

During the trial, Ferdinand was fined £45,000 by the FA for retweeting a tweet describing Cole as a "choc ice." It would appear as if the friendship once shared between the two England internationals is long gone.

For the Ferdinand brothers, especially Anton, this has been a tough year. The story will not end until both players actually face John Terry in a football match. However, an important moment is almost upon us because Rio Ferdinand now has a chance to make a stand, and how he deals with the Ashley Cole handshake could shape the future.

Should Ferdinand refuse to shake Cole’s hand, it will be a statement that Cole is unforgiven for offering his teammate support and not the man he shares skin colour with.

Should Ferdinand take the hand, as his manager may want, he will then be sending out a message of forgiveness. But, importantly, he will also be sending out a message that he has taken the higher ground and that, morally, he is a better person than the people who turned on his brother, who refused to shake Cole’s hand in September.

Both statements are understandable.

However, the elephant in the room is not whether Rio will shake Cole's hand. It is whether Cole will take Rio's hand. He too has been slighted by fellow professional, and friend.

Perhaps the best way forward for the sport, and everybody involved, would be for the two players to take each others hand and put everything behind them and look to the future, as tough as that may be.

You can follow and contact me on Twitter @WillieGannon


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