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England soccer captain Terry charged with racism

By Peter Wilkinson, CNN
updated 4:29 PM EST, Wed December 21, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • England soccer captain John Terry charged with racially abusing another player
  • Incident concerns comments player allegedly made to QPR player Anton Ferdinand
  • Terry denies charges; Chelsea Football Club issues statement backing him
  • Terry will appear before magistrates in London on February 1, 2012

London (CNN) -- England soccer captain John Terry will be charged with racially abusing another player, the UK's Crown Prosecution Service said Wednesday.

The incident concerns comments the Chelsea footballer allegedly made to Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand in a recent English Premier League match.

"I have today advised the Metropolitan Police Service that John Terry should be prosecuted for a racially aggravated public order offense following comments allegedly made during a Premier League football match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea on 23 October 2011," said Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London.

"I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case."

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Terry will appear before magistrates in west London on February 1, 2012, she added. The maximum penalty for the offense is £2,500 ($3,900).

In August, the Chelsea defender was reported in the UK's Daily Telegraph to have signed a new deal with the club worth £150,000 ($235,000) a week.

The London-born defender denied the allegations. "I am disappointed with the decision to charge me and hope to be given the chance to clear my name as quickly as possible," Terry said in a statement issued through the Press Association.

"I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends.

"I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence. I have campaigned against racism and believe there is no place for it in society."

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Chelsea Football Club also gave its support for Terry: "John has made it clear he denies the charge and is determined to do all he can to prove his innocence," the club said in a statement.

"Chelsea FC has always been fully supportive of John in this matter and there is no question that we will continue to be so.

"The club finds all forms of discrimination abhorrent and we are proud of the work we undertake campaigning on this important issue. Chelsea will not be commenting further on the subject while the legal process runs its course."

John Terry's career
The 31-year-old is the most successful captain in Chelsea's history, having led the London side to three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups since 2004.

However, he missed a penalty in the 2008 European Champions League final against Manchester United which would have given Chelsea that trophy for the first time.

Terry has made more than 500 appearances for the club since his debut in 1998, one of only five players to do so, and has represented his country 72 times since 2003.

Terry's position as England captain has come under scrutiny since the allegations were made, and the court case will come before the team's next match at home to the Netherlands on February 29.

The English Football Association declined to comment on Wednesday, but its former chief executive David Davies said the ruling body might take action later if Terry is found guilty.

"The FA would most certainly go down that road," Davies told CNN. "England is the country which first embraced the idea of using the power of football to face racism back in the 1990s. England has not, unlike many other countries, swept this issue under the carpet.

"He can most certainly still play for England, as things stand. You always start with the premise of innocence until proven guilty. He will, to be sure, fight these charges with a vehemence."

The prosecutor's decision to charge Terry came one day after the FA found Liverpool striker Luis Suarez guilty of racially abusing Manchester United player Patrice Evra in October.

The Uruguay international was suspended for eight matches and fined £40,000 ($63,000) after a seven-day hearing by an independent regulatory commission. He has 14 days to appeal the punishment, the FA said.

The commission found that Suarez "used insulting words towards Mr. Evra" and that those words "included a reference to Mr. Evra's color," the FA statement said.

Liverpool FC issued a statement saying it was "very surprised and disappointed" with the decision.

"We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no one else on the field of play -- including Evra's own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials -- heard the alleged conversation between the two players," the club said.

"We will study the details reasons of the commission once they become available, but reserve our right to appeal or take any other course of action we feel appropriate with regards to this situation."

Suarez did not specify what he said, but had previously said it wasn't offensive.

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