Rio Ferdinand has been found guilty of improper conduct and fined £45,000 ($70,000) by the English Football Association (FA) for comments posted on Twitter relating to his England teammate and Chelsea star, Ashley Cole.
Announcing its decision on Friday, the FA’s Regulatory Commissionconcluded that Ferdinand’s comment, which described Cole as a “choc ice,” brought the game into disrepute by referencing a person’s ethnic origin, color or race.
The Manchester United and England defender was charged in July after he responded to a tweet describing Cole as a “choc ice,” re-tweeting: “I hear you fella! Choc ice is a classic! Hahahahahaha!!”
The FA heard evidence from Herman Ouseley, a former chair of the UK’s Commission for Racial Equality who explained that “choc ice” was “an offensive and insulting term … used to question a person’s identity, based on the notion that they have a dark outer skin but inside they act as a white person … It means the person is fake.”
Ferdinand’s comment was posted on July 14, the day after John Terry was cleared of racially abusing Ferdinand’s younger brotherAnton during a Premier League match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers in October 2011.
Cole had been called as a character witness for his Chelsea teammate during the hearing held at Westminster Magistrates Court in London.
Although upholding the charge and fining Ferdinand, the FA stressed that it did not believe Ferdinand to be a racist, describing him as someone who has “a track record in fronting anti-racism campaigns in football.”
Ferdinand, who is one of football’s most high profile “Twitterers” with over three million followers, has declined to appeal the decision.
Greg Stobart, a football correspondent for Goal.com told CNN: “The fine is perhaps a little bit harsh. The thing I would say is that it was a foolish thing to do, but we know Rio was emotional because his brother was involved in the case.”
He’s not the first to fall foul of the FA for comments on Twitter, Stobart says, with Arsenal’s Emmanuel Frimpong recently being fined £6,000 ($9,500) after admitting a charge of improper conduct.
“Players need to be more careful,” Stobart said. “(Twitter) is a public forum … you’ve got to be responsible.”
Despite being cleared by the court, John Terry has also beencharged with improper conduct by the FA for his alleged comments to Anton Ferdinand during the match last October.