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FA to Investigate Terry Substitution

by Glenn Baird - May 27, 2017

An investigation into alleged betting fraud is being undertaken by the English Football Association after Chelsea’s former captain and club legend, John Terry, played his final game for The Blues at a packed-out Stamford Bridge.
Controversy arose when Terry was substituted from the game on the 26th minute, a time that matched the number that the defender has worn on the back of his shirt since he began his playing career at Chelsea.

The game itself had nothing riding on it. Chelsea were already crowned champions, whilst Sunderland were resigned to finishing bottom of the heap, destined to be playing Championship football next year.

For most people watching the game the lack of competitive edge would have made it a sporting non-entity. It was an occasion for the champions and their supporters to celebrate lifting the title, to look back wistfully at baby-faced photos of “JT” pulling on the number 26 for the first time and to thank him for his loyalty. It was an occasion for neutrals to praise his tenacity on the field and condemn his behaviour off it. Debates outside of Stamford Bridge would question his status as a role model, whilst inside the ground there was nothing but blind adoration for the man who has been synonymous with the club since Jose Mourinho named him his captain in 2004.
The only spectators at the game or tuning in on TV were likely to Chelsea fans, pundits and possibly even a few masochistic Sunderland supporters.

The game was paused on the 26th minute in an apparently pre-arranged piece of synchronised adoration which made it clear that the players on both teams knew exactly what would be happening at that designated time and were happy to accommodate the departing captain’s final wishes.

At the time most commentators were concerned with the farcical nature of the substitution. They questioned Sunderland’s compliance and argued that the integrity of the game had been violated for a spectacle that would normally grace the glossy, pre-packaged WWE arena. Pundits spoke with wide-eyed astonishment at something that they never would have endured in their day, forgetting that in their day there was no 24 hour a day football coverage from Sky Sports News or Talk Sport Radio to discuss every single minute aspect of the game. The celebrity culture that exists in a sport where players can earn more money in a week than most of us will see in a lifetime means that EPL has a lot more in common with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson than most football purists would be willing to admit.

However, what wasn’t mentioned at the time was the fact the despite having all the trappings of an overblown media circus, this was still a game of football, it was still considered a competitive sporting event and as such money could still be won and lost on a vast array of different markets.

When thousands of pounds are won on an event that is predetermined then surely questions have to be asked about more than just the integrity of the sporting spectacle. The difficulty that the FA and Sportsbook companies now have is how to answer the question. Many who profited will argue that they placed their bets without any insider information and that they did so because they knew how important the number 26 was to John Terry.

Yet, to suggest that there were no instances of Chinese Whispers trickling out of Walham Green would be naïve. In a month that has seen the career of former England international, Joey Barton, end because he “gambled” on his own transfer, the FA will surely want to get to the bottom of this matter as quickly as they can.