Friday 15 December 2017

Reds must finally concede that a line was crossed

Comment

James Lawton

James Lawton

Now that the Luis Suarez decision has been explained with a force and a logic that should convince anyone inhabiting a set of values that owe more to decent grown-up behaviour than half-baked tribal loyalty, it can only be hoped that Liverpool Football Club and their iconic manager, Kenny Dalglish, have the wit to stop embarrassing themselves.

This will require a few qualities that have not exactly been flying out of the Anfield woodwork in recent weeks. An intelligent understanding of the world we live in, including the prejudice that still stalks the streets of our cities with sometimes appalling consequences, would be one starting point.

Another is the acceptance that from time to time you need to reflect upon your actions through something more than the prism of self-interest.

In this case, it would have required Liverpool FC to understand that if Luis Suarez is not a racist -- a belief accepted by his accuser, Patrice Evra -- the crime he was charged with is the first ugly resort of those who are.

The independent panel, led by a QC and containing an ex-player and manager with a reputation for a hard-nosed understanding of the trade he pursued with notably rugged distinction, was never likely to expose itself to the charge of a serious miscarriage of justice.

Certainly the 115-page account of the hearing, and the basis of their decision, provides more than enough reassurance that this was indeed the case.

It also answered the question Dalglish asked around about the time he was approving the wearing of Suarez T-shirts before the match that followed the player's eight-match sentence for racially abusing Evra.

"It would be helpful to everyone," said Dalglish, "if someone gave us guidelines about what you can and cannot say." The verdict and report of an independent regulatory panel has at least provided half the answer to Daglish's threshing in an apparently unformed moral landscape.

You cannot make seven references to the colour of an opponent's skin in a situation which the panel -- and any casual TV viewer -- inevitably concluded was an "acrimonious situation" and escape the sure-fire belief that you are indulging in racial abuse and provocation.

You cannot do what Suarez did -- as proved by video evidence and confirmed by linguistic expertise -- and get away with an implausible argument that you were innocent of the charges against you.

irrefutably

Not when you have been found, irrefutably, to have said, without the interruption of any other word, "black, black, black..."

We do not yet know whether Liverpool will go ahead with an appeal after their initially emphatic reaction to the verdict and risk further punishment of the player, surely a certainty given the ruling that two further offences of this nature could lead to Suarez's permanent banning from English football.

What we should be able to believe is that all of English football is now utterly clear about what is unacceptable.

Luis Suarez has made other marks on English football. He is a player of thrilling skill, widely cherished by Liverpool fans, and any others who put a high value on outstanding ability, and this is surely the foundation of his success as long as he stays here.

It is something that he and his supporters must place alongside another reality that has been established beyond reasonable contradiction.

It is that through his actions no one need any longer be confused about the whereabouts of one line which in all decency cannot be crossed.

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