By: Jonathan Howard
John Terry managed to simultaneously become hero and villain in Chelsea’s Thursday away match to Tottenham in west London. While last minute heroics from the Blues skipper allowed for Chelsea to walk away with 1 point, it was Terry’s actions in a previous game that had him labeled the villain and booed every time he touched the ball. Terry is accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand in a league match against Queen’s Park Rangers earlier in the season allegedly calling him a f****** black c***. Though the controversy has been in public dialogue for some time, it became official on Thursday that he would be facing criminal charges. Terry has denied the abuse from the beginning but that hasn’t stopped main sponsor Umbro from toeing the line of support for the player.
According to Russell Parsons of Marketing Week an Umbro spokeswoman has come out and stated that Terry is still very much a sponsored player of the Nike subsidiary. While the statement may stand and John Terry may still be receiving compensation in return for wearing Umbro boots on the pitch among other contracted activities, the company has in fact, despite what the spokeswoman claims, removed the player from their website’s section that contains the profiles of sponsored players. The section does not include the former England and Blues skipper but does include fellow England internationals Andy Carroll, Darren Bent, Jordan Henderson, Michael Owen and Joe Hart. Furthermore, the England National Team, also sponsored by Umbro, maintains a Team profile page on Umbro’s website similar to that of the players’ and that picture does not feature Terry either. Though the picture is taken during a time when Terry was in fact injured, it still appears that Umbro is not choosing to display its partnership with John Terry too openly given the controversy surrounding the stalwart defender.
The news of Terry’s charge comes soon after Adidas released a statement regarding Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and his racial abuse of Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. Suarez has been banned for 8 games by the British FA but the player has officially appealed the ruling and Adidas has chosen to not comment on the situation until the outcome of the appeal has gone through. Coca-Cola found themselves in a similar situation last year with Wayne Rooney when allegations about his relations with a prostitute surfaced and they decided to drop the Manchester United and England striker. Nike however chose to stick with Rooney through the controversy.
The impact of public scandal on the reputation of sponsors can be quite extensive. Tiger Woods lost many major sponsorships in the aftermath of his sex scandal and with the Premiership and FIFA taking a very hard-lined stance on racism in the game through specific campaigns, it seems likely that if Terry is found guilty, his 2,500 GBP fine will be the last thing on his mind.