As has been the case here on the Liverpool Offside from the day this debacle kicked off over two months ago, we firmly believe that racism has no place in sport any more than it does in the wider world, and should Suarez be proven to have racially abused Patrice Evra on October the 15th we would be forced to regretfully accept the resulting punishment as justified.
Unfortunately, this latest series of events, culminating in the FA levelling an eight-match ban and £40,000 fine against the Liverpool player, does not appear to have brought us any closer to a real conclusion in the matter. This is in part due to Liverpool's strongly-worded response to the decision, one that leaves no doubt that based on the evidence they have been privy to they see no merit in the charges of racism levelled at Suarez. More importantly, though, it is because of the fact that the FA has deigned to as yet release any of the evidence used to convict Suarez with today.
That the club could be expected to support their player—as well as their brand, which could be expected to take a hit should serious charges of this nature be proven—is certainly a consideration. Yet if the FA in fact had a wealth of previously unreleased evidence that played a role in this decision, and if the club was aware of it, then it would be equally difficult to believe the club would continue to support their player in such combative terms in the full knowledge of the further damage that would be done to their reputation should it later be learned that they supported the player in the full knowledge of him having engaged in such racist actions as would justify today's heavy punishment.
However, if the FA in fact does not have this additional incriminating evidence on top of what has been publicly reported concerning the case to date, then it becomes exceedingly difficult to accept that the punishment handed down today fits the crime. To date, in fact, the only reported, racially charged exchange between the two players occurred following the corner where Patrice Evra originally claimed he had been called a racist term by Suarez over ten times:
Shortly after the corner, referee Andre Marriner called the pair together for a lecture. Suárez apologised and attempted to pat the United full-back on the head. “Don’t touch me, you South American,’’ Evra is alleged to have said. To which, the Uruguayan replied: “Porque, Negro?’’
People on different sides can argue whether Evra's initial comment in the above exchange, using the term "South American" as a racial epithet, was in fact the worse of the two phrases uttered by the two players. And they can argue if the term that Suarez used being more acceptable in South America is or is not a mitigating factor. However, it would be difficult to argue that based on that exchange alone the second player is deserving of an eight match ban and hefty fine while the instigator's only possible crime was that of being the victim.
Liverpool's response to the FA ruling, too, suggests that it was in fact not this exchange that led to the eight match ban Suarez faces pending appeal:
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 teammates 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.
Here they talk instead about an event that happened prior to the corner being taken, suggesting that it was this earlier event—the one Evra initially referred to when accusing Suarez—that is the basis for the eight match ban, and that moreover it is only Evra's word with no supporting evidence that has been used in order to reach today's verdict. This would perhaps make a kind of sense, as more than two months after the incident there has been no reported proof of any such earlier event, and, despite delaying their decision a further four days after originally intending to release it last Friday, the FA has recklessly chosen to keep secret any proof they may in fact have of such earlier actions that would justify Suarez' heavy punishment. If this is the case, however, it would only seem to make today's verdict regrettably misguided at best, as beyond the prospect of an eight match ban based solely on the taking of one player's word over another's there is also a more lasting punishment to be found in Suarez having his name now permanently linked to the term "racist" in the minds of most English-speaking football fans.
All of which leaves anybody without a previously existing determination to vilify the Liverpool striker in exactly the same place they were last week or last month: Without the slightest clue where the truth actually lies or if there was in fact any hard evidence of racial abuse seen by the FA panel in order to reach their decision. It is, to put it simply, one more unfortunate development in a case that, no matter its eventual outcome or where the truth actually lies, has seemed nothing but a string of failures and incompetence by those charged with guiding professional football in England.