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FA face dilemma over John Terry

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David Bond | 20:30 UK time, Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Lord Ouseley, the chairman of anti-racism group Kick it Out, is in no doubt that the Football Association should act now and suspend John Terry from the England captaincy.

That view will be echoed among many supporters but the FA says it cannot act until the criminal prosecution case against the defender has run its course.

Whatever the eventual outcome, the FA is duty bound to investigate. And the Crown Prosecution Service's unprecedented decision to charge such a senior figure for the alleged racial abuse of a fellow player will dominate the beginning of 2012 and beyond.

In the space of just 24 hours, the toxic issue of racism between players on the pitch has put English football back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

On Tuesday it was Luis Suarez. Wednesday, John Terry. Having sent such a strong message by banning the Liverpool player for eight matches and fining him £40,000, the FA knows it can't afford to be weak on another case even closer to home.

Terry is due to face an initial hearing at West London Magistrates on 1 February. England don't have a match until the friendly against the Netherlands on 29 February.

The FA will be desperate for it all to be sorted quickly to prevent disruption ahead of Euro 2012.

Fat chance.

John Terry faces a criminal charge of using racist language towards footballer Anton Ferdinand. Photo: Reuters

Even if the criminal case was done and dusted by then, the FA's own inquiries will have to be reinstated - regardless of whether Terry is cleared or not.

There is no indication that the FA will put England manager Fabio Capello's plans for next summer's European Championship ahead of the far more important moral issue of taking a lead on racism.

Besides, were Terry to be found guilty, how on earth could a player found guilty of racially abusing an opponent on the field of play really lead a side which has so many black players?

Whatever the legal rights and wrongs, it would have a poisonous effect on a dressing room so easily disrupted at major tournaments.

And remember England's black players have been subjected to racist abuse from fans when playing abroad.

So does all this prove that English football has a major racism problem?

The authorities and Kick It Out have done great work in raising awareness of the issue.

When I started as a reporter on a local newspaper in south London back in the late 1990s, the sort of abuse you heard directed at black players in grounds was appalling.

While you do still hear that from time to time, it is no where near as bad as it was.

But it's perfectly obvious it hasn't been stamped out. The truth is the picture isn't clear enough and so much is dependent on whether fans and players are prepared to report incidents.

Regardless of the outcome of the criminal case and any subsequent FA inquiry against Terry, this is a moment, and an opportunity, to really get to grips with a problem which, on the pitch or in the stands, has never really gone away.

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