FA v Terry - Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 22nd Feb 2024
Wordcount: 555 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: Legal Case Summary: John Terry, former England captain, was accused of racial abuse during a football match. The FA tribunal found him guilty, different to a criminal trial outcome.


The Football Association ('FA') charged John Terry, a prominent footballer for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, another footballer, during a Premier League match in October 2011.

A criminal case was undertaken first, where Terry was found not guilty. Despite the acquittal, FA continued separately with their proceedings.


The case revolved around whether Terry used racially insulting language towards Ferdinand during the match. Three major disputes arose in relation to this case, including about whether the FA can pursue a case for which a footballer has been acquitted in criminal proceedings; the FA's role in disciplinary matters; and the balance between players' rights and the need for organisations to enforce standards of behaviour.


The case highlighted the FA's powers to enforce its own regulations and the utilisation of balance of probabilities as its standard of proof, affording the FA ability to act independently of criminal court findings.

It set a precedence for other sporting bodies, showing that they too can use a lower standard of proof in disciplinary hearings.


In contrast to the criminal case, where Terry was acquitted due to the lack of certainty, the FA Disciplinary Tribunal found Terry guilty. The FA used a lower standard of proof - ‘balance of probabilities’ than the criminal court’s ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

As a consequence Terry was fined £220,000 and banned for four matches.


  • Anderson, J. (2013) ‘The “Double Jeopardy” Acquittal of John Terry’, The Modern Law Review, 76(1), pp. 128–141.
  • Faull, J. (2019) ‘Ethics and Governance in Sport: The future of sport imagined’, European Sport Management Quarterly, 19(5), pp. 677-678.

Journalist Brief

In 2012, John Terry, the then England captain, was accused of racially abusing another player during a football match. Even though Terry was acquitted in the criminal court case, the Football Association’s independent tribunal found him guilty. The main difference lies in the standard of proof. While a criminal court works on the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ basis, the FA uses the ‘balance of probabilities’. This gives sporting bodies the ability to regulate player behaviour, even if a criminal court has acquitted them. As a result, Terry was fined £220,000 and received a four-match ban.


What was the verdict of the John Terry racial abuse case by the Football Association?

Answer: The Football Association Disciplinary Tribunal found John Terry guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, and he was penalised with a fine and a four-match ban.

How did FA's standard of proof differ from the criminal court's in John Terry's case?

Answer: The FA uses the ‘balance of probabilities’ standard of proof. In contrast, criminal courts use the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, which is a more stringent standard. This allows a situation where a player is acquitted in court but found guilty by a FA tribunal.

Did the Football Association’s verdict contradict the criminal court’s decision?

Answer: The verdicts were different. A criminal court acquitted John Terry on the grounds of insufficient proof; however, the FA, using a lower burden of proof, found him guilty of the same offence.

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