The Suarez affair – Reds bottle it and take the pragmatic route.

Hopefully we can now draw a line under the Luis Suarez, Patrice Evra saga, however I doubt it?

Liverpool decided not to appeal and Suarez began his eight match ban the other night by missing the defeat to Manchester City.

The support the club has shown for Suarez is one thing however the manner in which we have conducted ourselves, issuing strongly worded statements contesting the decision, doesn’t really do us many favours. As more and more evidence came to light the outside perception has changed from a club possibly supporting a man wronged by a player with history of making false accusations of racism, to a club in denial childishly refusing to apologise, or at least express regret, even when faced with facts that many would say gives them no alternative but to do so.

That is the outside perception and I’ve no doubt that had this been different, Liverpool would have decided to appeal. I’m not an expert but I’ve also no doubt that their lawyers would have got Suarez off on some point of law be it a glaring gaff by the FA or some minor technicality. However, the club is not stupid. They support Suarez but they aren’t about to risk their reputation by stubbornly refusing to bend against what appears to be overwhelming opposition. They state that by not appealing the

“…. club can continue the progress that has been made (tackling racism in sport) and not risk a perception, at least by some, that would diminish our commitment on these issues”

One wonders if there were also commercial considerations. For example the loss of sponsorship or future commercial opportunities particularly in the far East were Liverpool are popular. As it is the club have tried to get the best of both worlds by not putting this at risk through appealing but also by lashing out the FA, Evra and, indirectly, The Mancs in their statement, it’s ironic that Suarez’s first game on his return could be at Old Trafford. We’ve also made veiled hints that we are not getting the full picture. Said Kenny

“I think it is very dangerous and unfortunate that you don’t actually know the whole content of what went on at the hearing. I’m not prepared, and I can’t say it, but it is really unfortunate you never got to hear it.”

The question is this. If Liverpool genuinely had a heart felt belief that Suarez has been wronged and is the victim of just another’s players word and no other evidence then they should have the courage of their convictions and refuse to take “no” for an answer. They should ask for the full content of the report to be exposed rather than making cryptic comments about it not being the full picture and see it through to the end game and proceed with the appeal, regardless of what people think. To not do so makes us look weak and undermines any statements they make concerning the way the case has been handled. It suggests that, despite their bluster, the club are ultimately willing to let the FA do what they want and creates a dangerous precedent which in fairness their statement touched upon.

“This case has also provided a template in which a club’s rival can bring about a significant ban for a top player without anything beyond an accusation.”

It remains to be seen if this is the case. As it is we continue with the defiant line of our original statement in the hope of going down gloriously with all guns blazing. However, the fact that we have failed to back it up by appealing simply shows us to be weak and hypocritical, it’s a half baked cop out which does us no favours and whoever is responsible for the way we’ve dealt with this should seriously consider their position. Had the club maintained a dignified silence from the very start or we would have come out of this in a much better light. It would have given us an easier choice about which way to go once the report had been issued and would, regardless of the way we went, have stopped some, if not all, of the brickbats?

Of course all this skirts around the issue of Suarez himself and what he has done or supposed to have said. Is Suarez a racist or just a stupid, tactless, misinformed man? I don’t know and only those close to him will. The support, via T shirts, of his “work mates” gave him suggests he isn’t. Suarez said

“In my country, ‘negro’ is a word we use commonly, a word which doesn’t show any lack of respect and is even less so a form of racist abuse. Based on this, everything which has been said so far is totally false. I will carry out the suspension with the resignation of someone who hasn’t done anything wrong and who feels extremely upset by the events.”

This may well wash but how do you explain Suarez only being aware of this now when he’s spent the last five to six years playing in Holland? When I last looked, this country was on more or less the same cultural plain as the UK. On the other hand in Holland you don’t get emotional games such as Liverpool v The Mancs every week? More to the point if Suarez feels he has been wronged why doesn’t he take on the FA personally through the court of law without the “help” of Liverpool?

The clumsy stance Liverpool have finally taken is designed to protect their reputation. Because of this, and for all their verbose support, Suarez has been left guilty as charged but he doesn’t appear minded to do anything about it? It is too little too late for both. Liverpool’s reputation is already damaged, in the short term at least. Suarez now faces the prospect of sustained abuse from the stands. How long will he be prepared to stay in this country and put up with it? It would be ironic that the club in trying to preserve player and reputation might end up being left with neither and, given the way they’ve handled this episode, deservedly so.

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