Panel says Suarez failed to grasp gravity of his offence
Body denies accusations of bias against Uruguayan over previous transgressions
Luis Suarez apologised to Branislav Ivanovic but ‘failed to grasp gravity and seriousness of his bite on the Chelsea player’.
Luis Suarez failed to grasp the “gravity and seriousness” of his bite on Branislav Ivanovic, according to the independent panel that imposed a 10-match ban on the Liverpool striker.
The body has also denied accusations of bias against the Uruguayan.
Suarez’s chequered past in English football played no part in his punishment, confirmed the Football Association in England following his decision not to appeal the ban yesterday.
Though the player did contest the FA’s initial assertion that a standard three-match ban for violent conduct was “clearly insufficient”, his status as a role model and the damage to the image of the English game globally did influence the tariff.
The striker challenged the FA’s call for an increased ban with the backing of the club.
Liverpool’s legal advice was questioned at the time of the Patrice Evra racism controversy and the three-man panel was left unimpressed by Suarez’s attempts to secure a three-match suspension.
“We took into consideration of Mr Suarez’s apology, his personal statement, supporting letter from Mr Brendan Rodgers and the letter from [club secretary] Ms Zoe Ward,” explained the commission.
Gravity and seriousness
“But when these were read in conjunction with Mr Suarez’s denial of the standard punishment that would otherwise apply for violent conduct is clearly insufficient [sic], it seemed to us that Mr Suarez has not fully appreciated the gravity and seriousness of this truly exceptional incident.”
Liverpool received the reasons for a suspension that will keep Suarez out of club football until late September after Rodgers had accused the FA and prime minister David Cameron of prejudicing the hearing.
The Liverpool manager claimed the commission had punished “the man rather than the incident” but the panel discounted Suarez’s previous misconduct, including an eight-match ban for using racially abusive language towards Evra.
“We did not take into consideration any previous disciplinary records of Mr Suarez and considered the offence in isolation”. But the panel did concur with the prime minister’s official spokesman, who prior to the hearing said Suarez’s role model status should be taken into account.
It confirmed: “The FA added that Mr Suarez is an international and one of the best known and lauded players in the country. A player at this level of the game has a duty to uphold the highest standards of conduct and to set an example to minors. Mr Suarez’s conduct on this occasion fell far below the standards expected of him.”
Cameron responded to the Liverpool manager’s criticism yesterday when he told BBC Radio 5 Live he spoke out “just as a dad watching the game” and that Suarez had set “the most appalling example to young people in our country”.
The FA ruling found that: “Mr Suarez’s conduct has damaged the image of English football across the globe.”
Suarez chose not to appeal having considered the written reasons with legal representatives and issued another apology for last Sunday’s bite.
The striker said: “I am truly very sorry about the incident with Branislav Ivanovic. I hope that all the people who I have offended at Anfield last Sunday will grant me forgiveness and I again repeat my personal apology to Branislav.
“I know that all the things that are happening to me in England will help me improve my conduct on the field. Right now I just want to focus on becoming a better footballer on and off the field.
“I would like to explain to everybody that I decided to accept the ban because, whilst 10 games is clearly greater than those bans given in past cases where players have actually been seriously hurt, I acknowledge that my actions were not acceptable on the football pitch, so I do not want to give the wrong impression to people by making an appeal.
“I really want to learn from what has happened in the last two and a half years; many things have been said and written about me, I just tried to do my best on the field. I hope to come back early to play.”
Rodgers and Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre issued statements saying they respected Suarez’s decision not to appeal but condemning a ban they feel is disproportionate.
The FA ruling, however, highlighted a seven-match ban handed to Brighton’s Ashley Barnes for tripping a referee last month as a more recent benchmark.
Liverpool’s manager issued a staunch defence of Suarez after the commission’s verdict but admits the striker will never be classed as a great of the game with such behaviour.
Rodgers said: “The one thing I will say is that you can never be called a great player when your behaviour is like that. That’s the one point I will make, because great players won’t behave like that. Our idea is to help the perception of Luis Suarez from a world-class player into a truly great player.”