Saturday 25 February 2017

What the damning Luis Suarez report tells us about Premiership football today

Luis Suarez clashes with Patrice Evra at Anfield
Luis Suarez clashes with Patrice Evra at Anfield

The Suárez findings highlight failings of the Respect campaign, a lack of on-field standards in the Premier League, the power of Sir Alex Ferguson and the value of 'team administrators'.

The Respect campaign failed

Apart from the exchange between Suárez and Evra, the commission also revealed how the standards of on-field behaviour are depressingly low. From Dirk Kuyt saying “Stand up you f------ p----” to an injured Evra, to the Frenchman’s own abusive comment to Suárez which precipitated his racist outburst, and referee Andre Marriner’s admission that Evra’s reaction to conceding a free-kick was “normal”, it paints a grim picture of Premier League life.



Giggs is still a key influence

The report’s detailing of the events in the immediate wake of Evra’s row with Suárez provided an insight into Ryan Giggs’s stabilising influence for United on the field. As Evra fumed, Marriner told Giggs, whose 20 years of service make him United’s de facto on-field manager, to calm down his team-mate. Giggs took him aside, listened to his complaint and warned him to “calm down and not get himself sent off”. Evra heeded the advice.



... and Ferguson still knows best

The United manager used all his nous in handling Evra’s incendiary allegations, taking the defender straight to Marriner’s room and instructing the referee to “write down what they were about to say”. In contrast, Kenny Dalglish’s reaction was clumsy at best, cracking a joke with fourth official Phil Dowd about needing to wait the requisite 30 minutes before speaking to the referee and suggesting – incorrectly – that Era had form with unsubstantiated racism allegations.



English is rarely heard at United

One of the more intriguing aspects of the report’s revelations of life behind the scenes at United was how little English is spoken in their dressing room. Evra, a Frenchman, spoke in Spanish and Portuguese to his team-mates after the final whistle, with his evidence suggesting that “all the Spanish and Portuguese players... speak to each other like this so that they can all understand each other”. Common sense, perhaps, but a far cry from the days when the only exotic sound in a United dressing room was a Rochdale accent.



... and fourth officials are not

Just in case you thought the only value in fourth officials lay in holding up electronic boards and telling managers to get back in their box, the report revealed their true use lies behind the scenes: acting as the referee’s makeshift secretary, taking down dictation, and trotting off to dressing rooms to summon grumpy managers to attend disciplinary briefings. What would we do without them?



Just in case you thought the only value in fourth officials lay in holding up electronic boards and telling managers to get back in their box, the report revealed their true use lies behind the scenes: acting as the referee’s makeshift secretary, taking down dictation, and trotting off to dressing rooms to summon grumpy managers to attend disciplinary briefings. What would we do without them?



‘Team administrators’ are vital

The commission’s report introduced a new role to football’s already crowded human resources lexicon: ‘Team administration manager’. At Liverpool, that role is filled by Ray Haughan, whose tunnel-based duties on United’s visit allowed him to overhear Ferguson lodging a formal complaint about Suárez. Within moments, Liverpool’s team management had been made aware of the situation and were preparing their defence although, in the event, Haughan’s assertion that Ferguson had said Evra was abused “five times” was cited by the commissiission as proof of the Frenchman’s case.



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