The hysteria over the recent John Terry case was a storm in a tea cup in comparison with the antics of some sportsmen over the years.
At the end of the day, this was about a comment nobody actually heard. One thing no one seems to have considered is that - although he admitted using the words in question - Terry could have been miming. Furthermore, for abuse to be said to have occurred, there must have been a victim. For some crimes, this is not the case. To take just one example, a man who puts his hand in another man's pocket hoping to steal his wallet can be convicted of attempted theft, even if the pocket of his intended victim is empty, but could he be convicted of murder if he had simply waved a knife at someone from a distance?
Though the usual suspects will continue to whine about Terry's acquittal, and the police will doubtless continue to pander to political correctness, there are proper and improper ways to deal with this sort of behaviour when it actually does cause offence or bring a sport into disrepute.
Boxers are supposed to fight in the ring, but on occasion they come to blows outside it, like this disgraceful spectacle at a post-fight press conference in Germany between Dereck Chisora and David Haye.
Chisora was fined by the World Boxing Council and given an indefinite ban. The German Boxing Federation said that neither man would be welcome to fight in Germany again.
Even that sport - if one may call it that - which sees its gladiators sent into battle in tuxedos and ties, has on occasion seen both fisticuffs and even drug abuse. Cliff Thorburn has two claims to fame; he was the first snooker player to take the world title outside the British Isles (1980), and he was the first player to make a maximum 147 in that tournament, (1983). He was also given a two tournament ban and fined £10,000 by the sport's ruling body (the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) for using cocaine. That though is nothing in comparison with the follies of the man he beat in the 1980 final.
Cliff Thorburn: Canada's only world professional snooker champion to date.
Not for nothing was Alexander Gordon Higgins known as the Hurricane. While he could clear a table in record time, he could also blow like a hurricane. At times he could be rude, and as far as any top snooker player has ever been unprofessional, he was. On one occasion he urinated in a pot plant during a match; on another he headbutted a tournament director. His most controversial act though was to threaten to have fellow professional Dennis Taylor shot. If Anton Ferdinand or even John Terry had uttered something like that, it would of course have brought at the very least a stern rebuke, but for one Irishman to say it to or about another at that time with everything that had happened in Northern Ireland was utterly crass, stupid and a host of other adjectives, though apparently not criminal. Higgins did though pay a heavy penalty, he was banned for a full year by the WPBSA, and rightly so. World snooker has arguably the highest standards of any game or sport on the face of this planet.
Although it would probably not be practical to attempt to apply such standards to boxing or soccer, clearly this is the way to deal with any incident on a football pitch or in any sport at any venue short of a serious assault. Professional footballers are public figures, and they have a duty to behave professionally in public especially when that public is paying inflated ticket prices to pay their even more inflated wages.
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