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Ashley Cole's ill-advised tweet means that the unpleasant business still has a long way to go; but it could have been so easily avoided.
It is nearly twelve months since John Terry called Anton Ferdinand what he said he didn't call Anton Ferdinand. It seems like much longer than that doesn't it? But it's not. The Ruling of the Full Regulatory Commission in the matter of disciplinary proceedings brought by The Football Association against John George Terry (available here) relates to the events of the 23rd October, 2011. In the intervening year, much has happened: John Terry lost the England captaincy, Fabio Capello resigned; JT (JGT?) booted a Barcelona player's derriere, lied about it, confessed, got banned; Terry, shin-padded, lifted the Champions League trophy; Rio Ferdinand was excluded from England for Euro 2012; John Terry was brave for England at Euro 2012; Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle found "insufficient evidence"; EBJT quit England; The FA banned Terry; Ashley Cole called them T-Stars.
Such are the lowlights of a long and unpleasant story. They have been well-rehearsed all over the place and are well known by everyone. What has been less well-remarked over the piece, though this may change should the absence of club football in the next fortnight give the story room to grow, is the nature of Cole's involvement, pre-Twat-tweet, in the sorry saga.
The Ruling has a whole section - from 7.27 to 7.42 - on "The ‘evolution' of Mr. Cole's statement. Without wanting to go into the whole thing - you can read it yourself from pages 46-56 - the relevant claim is that Cole changed his statement: what was "Definitely a ‘B' word - could have been ‘Bridge'? but I don't know for sure" in Cole's initial statement on the 28th October becomes "black or Bridge" on the 3rd November (47; 50). This change was precipitated by Chelsea Club Secretary David Barnard, and the relevant e-mail exchange between Barnard and the FA formed an important part of the latter's evidence to the commission.
Eventually the commission finds "considerable doubt as to whether the request to amend paragraph 4 of Mr. Cole's statement, to include the word ‘black', was based on Mr. Cole's own personal recollections, or as a result of discussions that he had had with Mr. Barnard" (54). Not an accusation (and should not be construed as such, an acknowledgement of doubt is not an allegation), this is nonetheless a significant finding which points to, at the very least, a window within which
Thanks to Cole's ill-advised tweet, the saga has spawned a second set of disciplinary proceedings. That should be, because of the above, a secondary story: the extent to which "John Terry: he says what he wants" is a club policy as well as a "fanthem" needs to be investigated.
But there is a third story, and this isn't meant to be trite. It's right there on the bottom of the first page of the report:
The sequence of events began when a QPR player intentionally kicked the ball out of play to enable one of his teammates, who had been injured, to receive attention. Contrary to custom and convention, when the throw-in was taken, Chelsea did not give the ball back to QPR (1-2).
Depressingly, this sorry saga, with its apparently interminable fallout, could have been avoided with a simple nod to custom. Perhaps, if Terry had simply done the usual "kick-for-touch" towards the corner flag, none of this would have happened: Capello would still be in charge of England; the c-word-b-word combo would have had much less print; Rio Ferdinand would have an England future and no one would have heard of David Barnard.