A short post about Luis Suarez

by Steve

On Sunday, Luis Suarez bit his opponent, Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Today, Suarez was given a 10 match ban. Obviously, this is generating a lot of debate, particularly amongst us keyboard warriors. As you might expect, Liverpool supporters are generally filling the Suarez apologist role, while supporters of other teams are rather pleased at the verdict.

I’m a Liverpool supporter too, so I can see mwhy some people think the ban is harsh. There is a temptation to look back on other cases where a player’s on-the-field behaviour has been punished after the act. John Terry was suspended for four games for using racist language. Suarez himself was banned for eight games for a similar reason. Roy Keane received a three-match ban for deliberately injuring Alf-Inge Haaland to the extent that it quite possibly shortened Haaland’s career. Keane only later received a further five-match ban for admitting his plan to hurt Haaland in his autobiography.

However, I don’t really see how there can be a sliding scale for banning players for bringing the game into disrepute. Essentially, any act of deliberate physical violence or prejudice on the football pitch should be punished severely. Suarez probably deserves a ten-game ban. So did Terry, Cantona, Keane etc.

Also, Suarez hardly has a spotless record. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that a player who has already had one long ban, should now face another for a second offence. Or should each incident be taken in isolation?

I would like to see diving, cynical fouls, abuse of officials and abuse between players wiped out of the sport. If Suarez’s ban deters other players from such behaviour it will be worth it.

However, consistency and transparency is the key here. Suarez can’t just be the pantomime villain who gets longer bans than any other player. Each and every instance where a player brings the game into such a poor light should be dealt with the same. Otherwise things won’t improve at all.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are put in an increasingly awkward position. Their best player is becoming a liability from a public relations standpoint, let alone from an ethical one. It is not easy for a club that preaches an ethos of doing things the “Liverpool Way” to stand by a player who is prone to racist outbursts and acts of petty violence.

However, from a performance perspective, Liverpool would (and will) struggle without the quality of a player like Suarez. Selling him will benefit everyone (the team he goes to, Liverpool’s competitors, probably Suarez himself), except Liverpool. While it might make sense from a moral standpoint to move him on, it won’t help the club on the pitch or in their accounts. Suarez’s value can only be falling with each incident. Liverpool will not get the price his talent warrants, and so won’t have the money to replace him with less volatile, yet equally talented, staff.

So, I can understand the club sticking by Suarez in the short-term. I can only hope that they can work with him to improve his temperament, to make him a better player and a better person. There is now plenty of time for club and player to do so.