Full findings of the regulatory commission difficult to square, with the player's four-game ban rationalised by a muddle of reasons
In the three-man regulatory commission's legalistic judgment, it is difficult to square the clear analysis that found John Terry guilty with the muddle of reasons rationalising the minimum four-match ban.
There is also the oddity of the Football Association, which brought the charge, actively arguing that Terry is not a racist, and the commission taking great care to state it agreed.
That takes the FA into the strange territory of what racism is, if calling a fellow footballer "a fucking black cunt" is not it. Then there was the deeply puzzling suggestion made by the FA's own barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, who prosecuted the case against Terry. The judgment quotes Laidlaw saying Terry's words were: "Perhaps an almost unconscious stream of invective."
For an FA process to find a football figure as galactic as Terry guilty of something so base as racial abuse was the difficult part achieved, albeit on the lower standard of proof than required in the criminal court which acquitted him.
The FA is used to making no friends, yet some facts should be pointed out in its support. It has tried, after repeated examinations of the best way to distance the system from institutionalised conflicts of interest, to keep the disciplinary process separate. Although the world still sees "the FA" as having found Terry guilty and imposed this punishment, these "regulatory commissions" are, although appointed by the FA, expected to apply independent judgment.
The FA acts as the prosecution, and it was bold to bring it, because it had a logical get-out when Terry was found not guilty of a criminal offence over the same incident. Indeed Terry's barrister, George Carter-Stephenson QC, sought to argue that the FA's charge, coming after the acquittal, was an "abuse of process".
Having found Terry guilty, the commission was asked by the FA to consider a sterner sanction for "aggravating factors". These included Terry's status as a footballer; that he undermined anti-racism efforts; and that Anton Ferdinand had been "badly affected".
It then took into account "mitigating factors" advanced by Carter-Stephenson. Terry's clean disciplinary record; the "extreme provocation" by Ferdinand swearing at him; character references from some black players and that acceptance that he is not a racist. The Premier League chairman, Sir Dave Richards, popped up, testifying to Terry's charity work. It also found it relevant that Terry had used the offending words only once, whereas Luis Suárez of Liverpool was banned for eight matches after repeatedly racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
It also considered it a mitigating factor that Terry had been through the criminal trial and the disciplinary proceedings – even though the commission found he lied through both. Weighing all that up, it decided on a four-match ban, effectively the minimum for racial abuse. It remains shocking that this happened and, at the end of it all, nobody is happy.