Last week the English FA handed down the report of its investigation into the racial abuse case levelled at former national team captain John Terry. The 53-page report loosely implies – but stops far short of accusing – Terry, teammate Ashley Cole and Chelsea FC executive David Barnard of contriving evidence to benefit the player's defence.
Cole responded as any normal person would: with a volley of abuse directed at the FA via Twitter.
He has apologised after the FA responded by charging him with misconduct for the insults. However, surely this isn't the main issue. Ashley Cole's rap-sheet of selfish behaviour is extensive and leans heavily on the use of mobile phones. Insults from incredible sources shouldn't hurt simply because their point of origin has – on appearances – so little integrity. The FA should be far more concerned that they suspect two players fabricated evidence in an attempt to avoid justice.
Perhaps as Cole's tweet was the final straw however, as amidst yesterday's palaver surrounding the opening of England's new home base at St George's Park, the FA instituted a new code of conduct applying to all players involved in the national set-up.
Of course it's a good idea, but begs the question: why hasn't this happened sooner? Perhaps these guidelines weren't seen as necessary; maybe those in the corridors of power ultimately realised that definitive expectations both allows players to know where they stand and provides a framework for enforcing social behaviour.
Under the new standards, the FA wouldn't have to charge Cole with the nebulous “misconduct” for his true-to-type Twittering but simply breaching the England player's code of conduct. Hopefully, this clarity will reduce the prevalence of spirit fouls like “actions unbefitting” or “bringing the game into disrepute”. It's a perfectly sensible step forward for English football, which has for too long indulged the selfishness of many star players.
Children need boundaries if they're to grow up to become productive parts of society. So too, it appears, do footballers. Maybe there's a link there.