By Arun Nair – (@Nair_39)
On Friday, The FA released their Independent Regulatory Commission’s written reasoning for the 10-match ban given to Luis Suarez for his infamous bite on Branislav Ivanovic in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Anfield last Sunday .
The 21-page document brings to light some of the inconsistencies and the hypocrisy of English football’s governing body and how they work.
Many Reds fans feel the player and the club have the right to feel aggrieved having read the regulatory panel’s reasoning, which, among other flaws, has little explanation of why the additional match suspension was seven games.
Here, in Part Two, I will analyse the main points of the IRC’s reasoning behind the length of Suarez’ suspension.
1) The Guides
Having stated that “the standard punishment[three-match ban] is clearly insufficient,” following the judgement that the incident was “truly exceptional” the IRC then deliberated as to what additional punishment should be served.
They noted that “there were no guidelines or precedence for this type of incident.” but stated that the panel would concentrate on “comparable violent conduct offences as a guide.”
Thus, they “considered and gave regards to the two previous cases, which the circumstances of the incidents were deemed to be truly exceptional and where there were claims by The FA that the standard punishments were clearly insufficient.”
The two cases used as guides were Eden Hazard’s infamous kick on a ballboy during Chelsea’s Capital One Cup semi final, second-leg goalless draw at Swansea, and Brighton’s Ashley Barnes’ trip on the referee in his side’s 1-0 defeat at Bolton.
However, why was the lower-profile incident of Chester’s Sean Hessey, who was given a five-match ban for a bite, not considered comparable? True, Suarez did not cite this case in his own submissions, but that should not be an obstacle, since he did not cite either of the cases that were used in comparison to his by the panel. The IRC would undoubtedly attribute this to the fact that “Rules, regulations and practices have evolved” as stated in their report, but surely not to the extent that the incident may be disregarded, nor the punishment for biting should be doubled?
The IRC noted that the Regulatory Commission for Hazard’s case “found that the standard punishment was sufficient,” and thus the Belgian served a three-match ban.
2) “Significantly more serious”
However, in comparison to the Hazard case, the IRC explained that, with regards to Barnes, “the Regulatory Commission found that the standard punishment was insufficient and decided to award a further three-match suspension, making a total of six-match suspension (in addition to one extra match suspension for his second dismissal of the season).”
After considering factors a to g(see Part One for more), the panel “concluded that this offence is significantly more serious than that of Ashley Barnes’ and, accordingly, the punishment should be significantly higher.”
At this point, the IRC does not make any reference as to how the judgements of the factors considered in both the Suarez and Barnes cases differ, merely stating that the panel judged Suarez’ more serious. No reasoning is present.
Meanwhile, while the report does not make any mention of Prime Minister David Cameron, paragraph 82.8 is almost an exact reproduction of what an official spokesman for Cameron said about Suarez earlier this week:
“All players in the higher level of the game are seen as role models, have the duty to act professionally and responsibly, and set the highest example of good conduct to rest of the game – especially to young players. In this regard and on this occasion, Mr Suarez’s conduct had fallen far below the standards expected of him.”
As for Cameron’s comments, well, it’s fortunate that his country doesn’t have any problems that need dealing with at the present, allowing him to intervene in comparatively trivial matters. Oh wait…
3) The Sanction
It seems, as many earlier suggested, that Suarez’ belief that the standard three-match ban would be sufficient counted against him. The IRC explained:
“We took into consideration of Mr Suarez’s apology, his personal statement, supporting letter from Mr Brendan Rodgers and the letter from Ms Zoe Ward. 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, it seemed to us that Mr Suarez has not fully appreciated the gravity and seriousness of this truly exceptional incident.”
So Suarez should probably not have denied the FA’s claim that the standard punishment was “clearly insufficient.” It was hardly likely that the IRC would agree with the Uruguayan, and to reiterate, it very much seems to counted heavily against him. Perhaps without this factor, Suarez would have received a suspension closer to the six to eight game mark many estimated, and would have been less dismayed by.
The panel continued:
“We also felt that the purpose of our decision should not only be a punishment to Mr Suarez for the offence committed, but must also be sending a strong message that such deplorable behaviours do not have a place in football.”
The above again raises the point made by Suarez(see more in Part One) that fellow professionals and others, whether inside or outside the game, know that biting is wrong and do not need to see the Uruguayan receive a hefty ban to confirm it.
At the same time, this statement appears to confirm the assertion by many Liverpool fans that Suarez, whilst deserving of punishment for his actions, is being used simultaneously as a scapegoat.
Finally, the IRC concluded that “After taking everything into consideration, we decided that Mr Suarez must serve an additional seven-match suspension on top of the automatic three match suspension.”
That’s it. No reasoning, other than the earlier claim that the incident was more serious than that of Barnes, who received an additional three. They could have given an extra four, five, six, eight or more. But they chose seven. Why?
Many people, from fans, to pundits, to Premier League managers, have called for more clarity in explaining bans – a recurring problems which also manifests itself in Suarez’ case.
In addition, the IRC stated that “We did not find good cause to suspend any of the additional match suspension.”
Many have disagreed with this, including Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. He argued:
“It could have been 12 with six suspended. That shows and tells the player it’s unacceptable what he did and everyone knows that but you have to put the carrot in front of the player to help him improve his behaviour and help with the rehabilitation and this has only been punishment.”
Meanwhile, many have raised the issue that Suarez will serve a ban for biting greater than the eight-match suspension he served for (alleged) racial abuse, and indeed over double the ban ex-England captain John Terry served for the same offence(four games). Are the IRC suggesting that a petulant bite is worse than racial abuse? If so, then Suarez’ ten-match ban provides an outrageous two-fingered salute to anti-racism.
If not, is this a ten-match ban simply because it is Luis Suarez?
There appears to be a correlation between public indignation, newspaper column length and severity of punishment; there is little other guideline to how the FA totalise their punishments, after all.
By no means is Suarez the victim of the piece, but does the Uruguayan have the right to feel aggrieved over the IRC’s judgement?
Perhaps the FA are as guilty as any other. They are in no uncertain terms, nor likely to be, corrupt, as the forlorn cry will come, but merely inept at making such judgments.
It’s ironic that, ultimately, the “Decisions and Reasons” of the Independent Regulatory Commission raises more questions than it does answers. Questions about a governing body and a regulatory commission whose processes are deeply flawed.
Luis Suarez was wrong, but maybe so is the FA’s judgement.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment with your thoughts on the Suarez ban. Did he deserve it? Was it too severe? Leave your thoughts below, and look out for Part Three: The Non-Appeal And Suarez’ Future. Coming soon.
Link to the full IRC document: