The silence from Fenway Sports Group since the Suarez race row began has been deafening. Where did they stand on the scandal? Did they back Kenny, or were they embarrassed by the whole episode? As they never publicly commented on it, we will never know.
One thing we can be pretty sure of is that, in the hours following Suarez’s refusal to shake Evra’s hand, FSG finally said to the Liverpool management “enough is enough.”
Looking at the incident itself, Suarez’s refusal to shake Evra’s hand was not such a big deal. It was far less controversial than the racial abuse allegation which started it all. It was also less provocative than the T Shirts worn by the Liverpool players in support of Suarez. In many ways, it was a storm in a tea cup.
So why did that incident finally force FSG into action?
Firstly, there was the reaction of the players on the pitch, including their bust up at half time. The Manchester United players were in no mood to play the incident down and actively sought out a confrontation with the Liverpool players in the tunnel. The police got involved and the finger of blame was pointed at Suarez and his handshake snub.
All this occurred during the biggest game of the season, with a worldwide television audience of half a billion watching. Whoever was to blame, we did not portray the global image John W Henry had in mind for the club when he bought it.
Secondly, the media and social network sites turned the storm in a teacup into a hurricane. This lead to John W Henry’s Twitter feed getting completely bombarded by a general public who had been whipped into frenzy by Sky Sports. In simple terms, Henry will care more about the global image of the club than he will about a local rivalry. The feedback he was getting on Saturday night was that our global image was in tatters.
Thirdly, and crucially, the New York Times decided to have their say.
Although they recently reduced their share from 17.75%, The New York Times still owns 7% of FSG. Therefore, when they speak Henry and Werner listen. In a direct challenge to their fellow board members, the Times position was as follows: “If the Fenway Sports Group is to be the responsible team owner in soccer that it has proved to be in baseball, it needs to get hold of Liverpool, its club in England’s Premier League, and repair its global image fast.
“On Saturday, Liverpool lost at Manchester United, 2-1, allowing United to temporarily move into first place in the Premier League. There is no disgrace in such a loss; United, the defending English champion, is vying to keep that title this season, and it very rarely loses at home.
“But there was disgrace, witnessed by television viewers around the world, in the refusal of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez to shake the hand of United’s Patrice Evra before kick-off.”
Their final message was as follows: “It is time for John Henry and Tom Werner, leaders of the Fenway Group that controls Liverpool, to state clearly the direction the team will take on this issue.”
Within hours of this article being published, all the defiance in Liverpool’s dressing room had disappeared. Ian Ayre put a statement out which directly attacked Suarez. Kenny Dalglish sided with his managing director. Suarez fell into line, issuing his own unreserved apology.
It was a turn of events that demonstrated where the real power at Anfield lies: thousands of miles away in Boston. It will be very interesting to see how events transpire.
For the first time in his second reign as manager, Dalglish has had his collar felt by his paymasters. For the first time in his Anfield career, Suarez cannot count on the unconditional support of his club.
Crucially, for the first time it is being seriously questioned whether Suarez and Dalglish will make it through the year as employees of Liverpool Football Club. It is that serious.
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