Liverpool rage over Suarez ban
Liverpool reacted angrily last night to what they consider is a witch-hunt against Luis Suarez after the striker was banned for eight matches and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
An Independent Regulatory Commission acting on behalf of the Football Association found Suarez guilty of misconduct following the incident in a Premier League fixture on October 15.
Evra claimed Suarez racially abused him "at least 10 times" in an interview conducted immediately after the game with the French television station Canal Plus. The Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, had personally attended the hearing to defend his player, arguing that the word "Negro" -- which Suarez admitted using once -- does not necessarily have racist connotations in Uruguay.
Liverpool also claimed Evra had used racist language to insult their player. But an FA statement confirmed the commission found Suarez had contravened rule E3 (2) of its regulations and issued the severe penalties.
The FA statement read: "An Independent Regulatory Commission has found a charge of misconduct against Luis Suarez proven, and have issued a suspension for a period of eight matches as well as fining him £40,000, pending appeal."
It added: "Mr Suarez has the right to appeal the decision of the Independent Regulatory Commission. An appeal must be lodged within 14 days of the date of the written reasons for the decision. The penalty is suspended until after the outcome of any appeal."
Liverpool said last night they were considering whether to appeal against the decision, which would keep Suarez out of football until at least January 25. However, if they delay that appeal, Suarez may miss both legs of the Carling Cup semi-final with Manchester City.
Suarez said via his Twitter account: "Today is a very difficult and painful day for both me and my family. Thanks for all the support, I'll keep working!"
Dalglish was quick to reiterate his support publicly last night, tweeting: "Very disappointed with today's verdict. This is the time when @luis16suarez needs our full support. Let's not let him walk alone."
The hearing into the incident was held over two days last week, with the findings delayed for five days of deliberation. A three-man panel -- comprising Paul Goulding QC, Brian Jones, chairman of the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA, and former Sunderland manager Denis Smith -- knew they were dealing with one of the most inflammatory cases in English football history, given the rivalry between the clubs involved.
Although many anticipated a guilty verdict, the extremity of the punishment came as a shock. The commission's conclusions appeared to signal the start of open warfare between Liverpool and United, with the furious response from Merseyside condemning both the FA and Evra.
While Manchester United made no comment on the findings, Liverpool issued a damning statement attacking the judgment and querying the validity of the commission's conclusions. They also suggested Evra should also have faced race abuse charges of their own.
"Liverpool Football Club is very surprised and disappointed with the decision of the Football Association Commission," read the club statement.
"We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no one else on the field of play -- including Evra's own Manchester United team-mates and all the match officials -- heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken."
Liverpool have also accused the FA of double standards by failing to act against Evra for calling Suarez 'South American' and accused the defender of lacking credibility in his evidence.
"It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible -- certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations.
"We do not recognise the way in which Luis Suarez has been characterised. It appears to us that the FA were determined to bring charges against Luis Suarez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November. We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks to an opponent after he admitted himself in his evidence to insulting Luis Suarez in Spanish in the most objectionable of terms."
In the three months since Evra made the allegation, already tense relations between Liverpool and United have deteriorated. Dalglish believes Suarez has been unfairly caricatured by remarks made about his players by rivals, with Alex Ferguson's subsequent comments about the striker seen as a contributory factor.
Ferguson accused Liverpool of "drip feeding" information in order to defend their player. ( © Daily Telegraph, London)