NEW: The trial date is set so far in the future because of Terry's football commitments
NEW: He is "shocked and disgusted" by the accusation, his lawyers say
The case stems from comments the Chelsea footballer allegedly made to Anton Ferdinand
Racist taunts, alleged and proven, have dogged English football for years
England soccer captain John Terry, who is accused of racially abusing another player during a match, will go on trial July 9 after his lawyers entered a plea of not guilty in a London Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
Terry did not appear in person for the hearing.
The trial date was set so far in the future because of Terry’s football match commitments.
Grosvenor Law, which is representing the football player, said it will put forward a “detailed and robust” defense, adding that Terry is “shocked and disgusted” by the accusation.
The case stems from comments the Chelsea footballer allegedly made to Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand in an English Premier League match last year.
Alison Saunders, chief crown prosecutor for London, said Terry is being prosecuted for a “racially aggravated public order offense” because of the comments during the October 23 match.
“I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case,” Saunders said in December.
The maximum penalty for the offense is £2,500 ($3,900).
The London-born defender denied the allegations.
“Mr. Terry has never racially abused another player in his entire career,” his lawyers said Wednesday.
Terry’s club has also backed him up.
“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 in December. “Chelsea FC has always been fully supportive of John in this matter and there is no question that we will continue to be so.
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 against the Netherlands on February 29.
The English Football Association’s 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 said in December. “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.”
In another case last year, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was suspended and fined for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
Suarez was suspended for eight matches and fined £40,000 ($63,000), England’s Football Association announced in December.
Evra said Suarez repeatedly shouted a racial slur at him during the October 15 match and demanded that Suarez be held accountable.
Suarez did not specify what he said, but said it wasn’t offensive. And his club issued a statement saying it was “very surprised and disappointed” with the decision.
Racist taunts, alleged and proven, have dogged English football for years.
On Saturday, police arrested a man on suspicion of making a racially abusive gesture at a high-profile soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester United earlier that day.
Also in January, Merseyside police arrested a 20-year-old man on “suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offense” following a Liverpool match against Oldham.