LONDON – Whatever punishment had been handed down to Luis Suárez would have been criticized.
That the Liverpool striker was banned for 10 games for sinking his teeth into the arm of Chelsea’s Branoslav Ivanovic has outraged some (mainly on the red half of Merseyside) because of its severity. Others think it’s what a brilliant player but a nasty bit of work deserved.
While the Football Association’s antiquated, indefensible regulations allow potential leg-breaking tackles to go unpunished because a match official has seen the incident despite taking no action, the governing body is on the thinnest of disciplinary ice.
Just as Suárez needs help for the psychological problems he has, if the F.A. is to have any credibility it must change its disciplinary regulations for next season. There should be a set tariff for offenses, not the current “pick a number between one and 10.”
At the moment the way the F.A. punishes (or doesn’t punish) acts of violence is confusing, inconsistent and incomprehensible.
A broken cheekbone?
Sorry, the ref showed a yellow card, we can’t do anything. The F.A., you see, is against retrospective refereeing of matches.
Well, sort of — it is against it only to punish offenders. It is happy to retrospectively unpunish those sent off by overturning a red card for an incident seen and dealt with by the referee.
Players who bury their elbows in fellow professionals’ faces can escape scot free, but a biter is given 10 matches, which in Suárez’s case will see him sidelined until the end of September.
Bitegate was clearly captured by Sky Sports’ cameras so the F.A. could act as it was not spotted by any of the officials. Had referee Kevin Friend shown Suárez a yellow card, or even just been deemed to have seen what happened and taken no action, under its regulations the F.A. (Farcical Association) could not have suspended the striker.
Yes, that’s how ridiculous its rule book is.
The F.A. charged Suárez, but its system dictates that it is not the F.A., but a three-man independent regulatory commission appointed by the F.A., which sits in judgement.
It is NOT the F.A. which decides the penalty, the F.A. merely imposes it. I hope you are still with me — there is more.
Yet when Suárez was charged, the F.A., which doesn’t set the sanction, said in a statement that the usual three-game suspension for violent conduct was “clearly insufficient.”
It is like a judge saying to a jury: “please retire to consider your verdict of guilty.”
Suárez and Liverpool came out with choreographed apologies the day after the game, while when the ban was announced the club said it was “shocked.”
Not shocked that one of its players should indulge in cannibalism, but shocked at the 10-game sentence.
For his part, the Uruguay international said three games was sufficient — not even the F.A. is that weak, OK, cancel that remark — but a player’s domestic record over the five previous years is taken into account and an eight-game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra did not help Suárez.
He also received a seven-match suspension for biting Otman Bakkal when he was with Ajax, the PSV player calling it “unbelievable” upon hearing that Suárez was now a serial biter.
Retaliation in the form of a kick or punch cannot be condoned, but is understandable in the heat of battle.
It is what babies and dogs do, not footballers.
Suárez’s CV now shows bans totaling 25 games for racism and two acts of biting. He could even be suspended from international football because FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Suárez after he allegedly punched Chile defender Gonzalo Jara during a World Cup qualifier last month.
You can throw in a few dives for good measure, too.
Some say he is victimized, an easy target, but he has made himself into a huge bull’s eye.
Suárez is a wonderfully gifted player who should be the favorite to win the Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year award which is announced on May 3, but he will be lucky to muster a single vote.
Suárez was given 10 matches; a different disciplinary commission would have given him a lesser punishment.
Though Suárez was banned for eight games for racist remarks, John Terry was suspended for only four.
There must be clear, specific sanctions for various offenses to remove such inconsistencies. The F.A. must also ensure a natural sense of punishment and if match officials fail to punish violence their mistake must be corrected by the governors of the game.
They must show violence cannot be tolerated whether a match official has seen it or not.
AFTER BITEGATE, it is Guard Of Honorgate.
English football has a never ending supply of gates. On Sunday Robin van Persie returns to Arsenal for the first time since his £24 million transfer to Manchester United last summer and it is tradition that the newly crowned champions receive a guard of honor from their opponents.
United did it for Arsenal 12 years ago and the Gunners will follow tradition though their fans are unlikely to applaud van Persie and his teammates on to the Emirates turf. Word is many will turn their backs and “do a Poznan.”
Feelings still run high that van Persie, who had a year of his contract remaining, left Arsenal which felt it had no alternative than to cash in on the striker.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.