ENGLAND football captain John Terry said he hoped to clear his name “as quickly as possible” today as he was told he will be charged with racially abusing a fellow player.
The 31-year-old is to be prosecuted after being filmed during a match appearing to shout an offensive comment at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
Alison Saunders, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said she had told Scotland Yard the Chelsea star should be prosecuted for “a racially-aggravated public order offence” over claims that he called Ferdinand a “black ****” during a Barclays Premier League match on October 23.
But multimillionaire Terry, who faces a fine of about £2,500 if convicted, said in a statement that he had “never aimed a racist remark at anyone”.
He said: “I am disappointed with the decision to charge me and hope to be given the chance to clear my name as quickly as possible.”
Terry’s future as a leading international player has been thrown into doubt by a potential trial by magistrates next year.
He is one of the most decorated English players in the modern domestic game, having led west London’s Chelsea FC to a string of trophies and league titles.
Terry added: “I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends.
“I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence. I have campaigned against racism and believe there is no place for it in society.”
Ms Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, said: “I have today advised the Metropolitan Police Service that John Terry should be prosecuted for a racially aggravated public order offence following comments allegedly made during a Premier League football match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea on October 23 2011.
“The decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and after careful consideration of all the evidence I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case.
“Mr Terry will appear before West London Magistrates’ Court on February 1 2012.
“He is now summonsed with a criminal offence and has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice his trial.”
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas pledged his support to the defender shortly before the CPS made its announcement.
“The only thing I know is that I will be fully supportive of John Terry, whatever the outcome,” he said.
“He has my full support, he has the club’s full support. We know exactly his human values and personality. They are never in doubt.”
Videos of the alleged incident were circulated on the internet in the aftermath of the game.
Lawyers had asked police for more information regarding the incident before making their decision.
New evidence, featuring previously unseen footage from TV cameras, was handed to the CPS last week.
Terry, who has been absent from training with Chelsea in recent days after suffering an Achilles problem, has been included in the playing squad for the club’s next game, a London derby against Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow night.
Shortly after the allegations were made, Terry previously said he was “disappointed that people have leapt to the wrong conclusions about the context of what I was seen to be saying to Anton Ferdinand”.
He added: “I would never say such a thing, and I’m saddened that people would think so.”
Campaigners have launched lengthy battles to rid football of racism, which plagued the game during the 1980s.
Chelsea Football Club said in a statement: “John has made it clear he denies the charge and is determined to do all he can to prove his innocence.
“Chelsea FC has always been fully supportive of John in this matter and there is no question that we will continue to be so.
“The club finds all forms of discrimination abhorrent and we are proud of the work we undertake campaigning on this important issue.
“Chelsea will not be commenting further on the subject while the legal process runs its course.”