Friday 19 January 2018

Luis Suarez's lawyer describes ban as "grotesque and absurd"

Luis Suarez has been banned from all football activity for four months
Luis Suarez has been banned from all football activity for four months

Luis Suarez's lawyer has described the four-month biting ban handed to his client as "grotesque and absurd" and claimed: "All that was missing was life imprisonment."

The Uruguay and Liverpool striker was suspended for nine competitive games for his country and barred from all football activity for four months for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup group match between the nations on Tuesday.

The Uruguayan federation (AUF) has already signalled its intention to appeal, and even Chiellini has described the sanctions as "excessive".

Now Suarez's lawyer Alejandro Balbi has had his say, and told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope: "The ban is absolutely disproportionate considering what Luis did.

"Julio Grondona, vice-president of FIFA, told me that he had never seen such a serious ban handed to a player.

"This is so grotesque and absurd that the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) will have to revoke this unjust ruling.

"Unjust not just due to the number of games given, which is already incredible, illogical and arbitrary, but also the issue of not being able to be allowed to have any relationship with football in 120 days, and then there's the fine.

"All that was missing was life imprisonment."

Balbi added: "From a legal standpoint it hasn't been fair. Even if he were responsible, the punishment does not have congruence with what was done.

"We are in constant contact with Liverpool and we are ready to fight until the end.

"Luis has suffered many inconveniences in the Premier League and now he is getting it from the Italians.

"They have picked him as the scapegoat."

Betting website 888poker announced earlier on Thursday that it had ended its arrangement with Suarez following the incident. The Uruguayan had been an ambassador for the company, a decision Balbi described as "madness".

As for his client's future, Balbi said: "I see (Suarez) playing football and that is what makes me happier. He has become a world star and he is among the three or four best (players) in the world and as a goalscorer there is no one like him. Football will not be deprived of seeing him on a football pitch."

Chiellini has expressed his sympathy for Suarez, and said in a statement on his official website, "At the moment my only thought is for Luis and his family, because they will face a very difficult time.

"I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive."

Suarez has left Uruguay's national team in Brazil and returned home to Montevideo but Chiellini says the player should have been allowed to remain with his team-mates despite the punishment.

He continued: "I sincerely hope that he will be allowed, at least, to stay close to his team-mates during the games because such a ban is really alienating for a player.

"Now inside me there are no feelings of joy, revenge or anger against Suarez for an incident that happened on the pitch and that's done. There only remains the anger and the disappointment about the match."

Meanwhile, Liverpool are working their way through the legal minefield of the four-month ban but are still a long way from even considering launching a challenge to FIFA.

The club have dismissed claims by Balbi that their representatives are meeting with him and the player's agent Pere Guardiola in Barcelona on Friday.

Chief executive Ian Ayre and Guardiola have a good relationship and there has always been an open line of communication between the pair - and Press Association Sport understands Ayre has been in regular contact with principal owner John Henry from the moment the incident happened.

Whether the meeting in Barcelona ultimately takes place or not Liverpool are still trying to assimilate all the details and implications of the punishment handed down to the Uruguay international.

Having seen no paperwork from the disciplinary hearing the club cannot yet formulate any sort of response and suggestions they are already considering a lawsuit against FIFA are wide of the mark.

Liverpool would be reluctant to take on world football's governing body and they are also keen to avoid becoming embroiled in a long, drawn-out saga through CAS, which would seem their most feasible course of redress.

However, no decisions have been made on how to progress as officials are still trying to ascertain the minutiae of the case in terms of things like Suarez's training regime. The FIFA ruling states he cannot be involved in any football-related activity for the duration of his suspension, which includes entering any stadia.

Suarez will miss at least 12 club games - nine Premier League matches plus three Champions League games, and potentially a Capital One Cup match too - before a return at the end of October.

The ban on football-related activity does not extend to transfers and both Barcelona and Real Madrid have reportedly not been put off by the latest development in the player's controversial career, which is why Balbi's announcement of a meeting in Spain's second city piqued interest.

But Liverpool, having backed the striker to the hilt during his two previous misdemeanours with them - the eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra and the 10-game suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic - have no intention of selling a man who was the Premier League's leading scorer with 31 goals last season despite missing the first five games through suspension.

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