Offtopic #1 – Suarez’s ban and the FA

Even people not interested in football will be aware of the conduct of Liverpool FC’s front man Luis Suarez during a recent game against Chelsea. For reasons unknown, and unbeknownst to the referee or the linesman, he bit defender Branislav Ivanovic on the arm last weekend. No, really.

Yesterday Luis Suarez tweeted an official apology to his followers for his actions, an apology which has accompanied various statements from manager Brendan Rodgers and managing director at the club Ian Ayre in an attempt to quell the media barrage following the Football Association’s investigation. Ivanovic himself chose not to press charges, but the FA pushed ahead with their inquiry and published their findings in full yesterday. The Uruguayan has been handed a 10 match ban, which may sound fair for what can be boiled down to aggravated assault, no matter how comical the attack was.

I don’t think it is, though.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no fan of Suarez. He’s an exceptionally gifted forward, and his control of the ball is world-class. I seldom see players who are confident/able enough to take on a defender the way Suarez does (and I don’t mean by gnawing on them), but he’s not a player who commands much respect. His celebration infront of Everton manager David Moyes after comments about diving were comical, but spoke volumes about his mentality.

Despite this, it’s clear to see that there has been some sort of shift in the FA’s approach to banning players. Racism, particularly, is a massive issue of concern in the footballing world, and several high profile campaigns exist to boot it out of the beautiful game. Another Chelsea defender, John Terry, was banned for a mere 4 games after racially abusing QPR player Anton Ferdinand. Suarez himself was charged with racially abusing Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra in the 2011/12 season, and received an 8 match ban. I’m not sure how you put varying delineations of ‘bad’ on racism, but neither 4 nor 8 matches seemed to suffice for Suarez according to the FA.

Oddly enough, this isn’t even the first time that Suarez has bitten a fellow player. Seven match ban. He’s even managed to punch Chilean defender Gonzalo Jara and go unpunished thus far, until such times as FIFA conclude their investigations.

It seems pretty clear why most defenders seem to keep their distance from him.

Section 22 of the FA’s statement claims that they “did not take into consideration any previous Disciplinary Records of Mr Suarez”:

22. As The FA had claimed that the standard punishment that would otherwise
apply is clearly insufficient (refer in para 8) and this was not accepted by Mr
Suarez (refer in para 11), we were to deal with this case, not as a Misconduct
Charge but, under the Schedule A of Standard Directions and we did not take
into consideration any previous Disciplinary Records of Mr Suarez and
considered the offence in isolation.

Startling, really, given the length of the ban. What if they had taken his other offences into account?

Section 58 also cites the incident trending worldwide on Twitter:

The FA submitted that Mr Suarez’s action took place in the 65th minute of the
match between Liverpool and Chelsea, two of the most distinguished and
heralded clubs in England. The match was televised live to millions of viewers
both domestic and overseas. Within a few hours of the match, reference to the
incident was both headline news around the country and the top trend on
twitter worldwide.

I included the italics on the word ‘worldwide’ there because that’s actually how it’s presented in the official document. I get the significance of audience numbers concerning incidents like this. The evolution of media and journalism in today’s society means that something as far-fetched as a player biting another player will be on the web instantly, as will the social commentary from fans and critics alike.

Lines can be drawn to the old journalist adage: what’s better; dog bites man, or man bites dog? – quite literally, in fact.

The nature of the story is such that it’s fit for breaking news, and that’s not even taking into account the fact that this is Luis Suarez, a repeat offender. I can’t help but remember the media coverage of John Terry’s trial, however, and wonder how that was not considered grounds to ramp up his sentence, especially judging his defense amounted to claiming he was quoting Ferdinand’s accusations. The FA themselves even crowned it “improbable, implausible and contrived”.

I don’t deny that Suarez should be banned. The camera footage that caught him in the act leaves nothing to the imagination, and the cited measure of propagation that the event received meant the FA were obligated to react. Despite this, it seems as though the sentences are on the up, and if the FA truly did not take into account the Uruguayan international’s previous conduct, then why 10 matches? The relevant authorities deemed 7 matches appropriate for his previous nibbling on Otman Bakkal, what makes this so much worse?

If Liverpool manage to keep a hold of their star striker during the summer, I’ll be surprised. I understand Bayern Munich are in the market for him, and they seem to be willing to open bids at £60M – not a figure to be scoffed at, no matter how much the Merseyside giants want him.

I’m even more surprised that a club like that would be willing to put up with him. I’ve come to be relatively nonplussed when Suarez does something outrageous – it seems to be a part of what he does. But that’s not a point to regard, say the FA.

He’s a pleasure to watch while he works, even for someone who doesn’t support Liverpool. Maybe I am a little biased then, at least from a view of entertainment, when I find it odd that the footballing authorities find Luis Suarez’s idiotic behaviour 150% more serious than John Terry’s racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand.

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