"An independent regulatory commission has found a charge of misconduct against Luis Suárez proven, and have issued a suspension for a period of eight matches as well as fining him £40,000, pending appeal. The decision is as follows:The full written adjudication is still to be released and so I felt it would be inappropriate to comment until I had read the reasons for the decision.
• Mr Suárez used insulting words towards Mr Evra during the match contrary to FA Rule E3(1);
• The insulting words used by Mr Suárez included a reference to Mr Evra's colour;
• Mr Suárez shall be warned as to his future conduct, be suspended for eight matches covering all first-team competitive matches and fined the sum of £40,000;”
Later in the day another footballer, Chelsea and England captain John Terry, was informed that he has been charged with the following by the Crown Prosecution Service:
"threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress which was racially aggravated in accordance with section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998".Again, I do not know the evidence that has led to this decision and until the trial takes place will not know the full facts about the case.
What I will comment on is the reaction of the football clubs in both cases. Liverpool FC issued a statement which defended Suarez and challenged the findings of the commission. The statement can be read here but this section sums up their response:
It seems incredible to us that a player of mixed heritage should be accused and found guilty in the way he has based on the evidence presented. We do not recognise the way in which Luis Suárez has been characterised. Nothing we have heard in the hearing has changed our view that Luis Suárez is innocent and we will provide Luis with whatever support he now needs to clear his name.The Liverpool manager has also issued statements about the verdict including the following on Twitter:
"Very disappointed with today's verdict. This is the time when [Luis Suarez] needs our full support. Let's not let him walk alone. KD,"Then yesterday evening before their match the Liverpool team warmed up wearing T-shirts with a picture of Suarez on them, including Suarez himself, and throughout the match the supporters chanted his name.
The reaction of Chelsea FC to the charge against John Terry was more immediate than that of Liverpool, who at least had the grace to wait a couple of hours before issuing their statement. Chelsea responded with the following:
"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 will continue to be so.”The Chelsea manager offered his views on the matter:
"For a player with John's experience, it won't be a problem. The only thing I know is that I will be fully supportive of John Terry, whatever the outcome of the situation."What I find so disappointing in both these cases is that the respective clubs seem determined to support their players whatever the outcome of the cases. This attitude is mirrored in the reactions of the supporters. The airwaves and internet have been awash with attempts to deny, explain, justify and excuse the behaviour of the two footballers. Guilty or innocent their players will be defended by every means at the disposal of the clubs with the full support of their fans.
To be fair Chelsea and Liverpool are not alone in this. Most clubs see their players as extremely valuable assets and will seek to protect their investments at almost any cost and by turning a blind eye to behaviour that would be deemed unacceptable in wider society. Football fans are tribal animals, fed a strong diet of ‘our club against the world’ propaganda by managers and fanzines alike and so are willing to excuse almost anything one of their players indulges in.
The football authorities also carry a burden of responsibility for these attitudes. The English FA appealed against Wayne Rooney’s three match international ban for violent conduct in order to secure his services at Euro 2012 and successfully had the ban reduced. Thus, they sent out a message to the clubs they seek to govern, encouraging them to use whatever means to enable their players to take to the pitch. (I write this as a supporter of Manchester United and Wayne Rooney.)
And don’t look to FIFA, football’s governing body world wide, for leadership on this or any other issue. I have written about the failure of leadership on racism and other matters offered by FIFA in the past and nothing seems to have changed.
Whatever the final outcome in both these cases the message is clear from clubs and fans alike: We support our players right or wrong. Moral relativism eats at the soul of football, fuelled by money and an unthinking devotion to the gods of the beautiful game. I would say it will all end in tears but it already has on too many occasions as Liverpool FC know only too well.