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Analysis: Liverpool wrong to dispute Suarez ban

Our assessment of the week’s events surrounding the striker, and fallout from his 10-match ban.

Liverpool said they were
Liverpool said they were "disappointed" at the severity of Suarez's ban.

IN THE AFTERMATH of last week’s heated encounter between Liverpool and Chelsea, it was clear that Graeme Souness was seething over the Luis Suarez biting incident.

“He’s making it very difficult for himself to stay at Liverpool,” said the ex-Liverpool player turned pundit on Sky Sports.

“It’s going to show Liverpool in a bad light. It just can’t happen – it just puts him in the last chance saloon.”

His words epitomised the tone of the majority of the reflections emanating from the now-infamous act, but given Souness’ football knowledge and deep affiliation with the club, these comments carried extra weight.

Most commentators also suggested Suarez was likely to receive a lengthy ban for his disreputable behaviour, and therefore, it was hardly a surprise when it was confirmed earlier this week that he would be suspended for 10 matches.

The only major surprise was Liverpool’s dismayed reaction to the ban, after they had previously condemned Suarez in the hours following the incident. “Both the club and player are shocked and disappointed at the severity of today’s Independent Regulatory Commission decision,” said the managing director, Ian Ayre. “We await the written reasons tomorrow before making any further comment.”

Meanwhile, manager Brendan Rodgers questioned whether the FA panel was truly independent and added: “There have been two incidents of this type of scenario. One player received no ban and continued to be chosen by the FA as part of the England squad.

“The second player received a five-game ban – so as you can imagine when Luis Suarez receives a 10-game ban it is very difficult to understand, and even more so for Luis.

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“For him to receive that [10-match ban], when the comparisons of the similar incidents is somewhat different, then that is what is hard to take.”

Rodgers’ points were reasonable enough to a degree, though questioning the integrity of the panel seemed more than a little unfair.

He was right to suggest Jermain Defoe was extremely fortunate to be let off with a yellow card back in 2006, and perhaps Chester’s Sean Hessey – the other player to whom Rodgers was referring – was also lucky to be suspended for a mere five games owing to a near-identical incident to Suarez’s indiscretion.

However, the one notorious biting incident in football that he tellingly neglected to mention involved Suarez himself, while he was playing for Ajax, and for which he received a seven-game ban.

It would be interesting to hear Rodgers’ thoughts on this incident. Does he also feel it was too harsh? Does he believe that the Dutch FA lack independence and were deliberately singling out Suarez for unfair treatment?

The Uruguayan international clearly failed to learn his lesson from this 2010 incident and thus, it was paramount that this latest punishment was even graver. The FA were undoubtedly well aware of the occurrence in Holland, and presumably deduced that banning him for less than seven games would send out the wrong message. And indeed, Suarez’s ban was in fact rather lenient if you compare it to Springbok prop Johan le Roux, who was banned for 18 months for biting Sean Fitzpatrick’s ear back in 1994.

Therefore, a 10-game ban seems legitimate on that basis and causes the Liverpool cries of indignation to ring hollow. And if the Anfield club had any real conviction in what they were initially saying, surely they would have appealed the ban. Granted, there was clearly concern that such an action could ultimately serve to increase Suarez’s ban, rather than succeed in their desired aim of reducing it. Yet as a matter of principle, they should have pursued the case regardless if they were truly serious in their immediate reaction.

Liverpool’s subsequent decision not to appeal therefore only exacerbated the club’s dwindling image in this particular unsavoury saga, making it look as if their complaints amounted to political posturing, and suggesting that they didn’t consider the ban to be quite as outrageous as their representatives had originally inferred.

Moreover, Suarez has been in trouble on countless occasions before, recently appearing to punch a Chilean opponent when playing for Uruguay. While it’s arguable that the degree of scorn heaped on the Liverpool star is excessive at times, the striker’s consistent involvement in controversy means even his greatest defenders will concede that he can no longer credibly be described as purely a victim of the English media’s prejudice.

Of course, that’s not to say he hasn’t been unfairly treated at times. He is routinely castigated for his diving, when other players who are either considered less high profile or more respectable engage in this act just as regularly but attract nowhere near the level of attention or negative comments that Suarez receives.

This blatant hypocrisy should not be overlooked either, but it should be regarded as a separate issue to how this biting incident has been handled. This time, despite Liverpool’s protests, the punishment unequivocally fits the crime.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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