Footballer John Terry has been cleared of hurling a racist obscenity at Anton Ferdinand.

The England and Chelsea defender was acquitted of calling Ferdinand a "f****** black c***" during a Premier League Game on October 23 last year.

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle cleared the 31-year-old of a racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Friday.

Giving his verdict, Mr Riddle said the case was not about "whether Mr Terry is a racist in the broadest sense of the word". He said he had heard a great deal of evidence to show that he is not. "It is understandable why Mr Terry wants to make this point, his reputation is at stake," he said.

Terry left the court within minutes of the verdict. Looking impassive, he was escorted by aides past the media scrum. He made no comment but was cheered by a small group of Chelsea supporters as he was driven away.

Explaining his verdict, Mr Riddle said the prosecution presented a strong case.

He said: "There is no doubt that John Terry uttered the words 'f****** black c***' at Anton Ferdinand. Even with all the help the court has received from television footage, expert lip readers, witnesses and indeed counsel, it is impossible to be sure exactly what were the words spoken by Mr Terry at the relevant time...

"It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him (by Ferdinand). In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty."

Outside the court, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: "We are pleased that John can now put his mind to football and go back to training and do what he's done for many years."

Dan Morrison, Terry's lawyer, added: "The court has today acquitted John Terry of all charges. He did not racially abuse Mr Ferdinand and the court has accepted this."