Liverpool have reacted with shock and dismay to the 10-game suspension handed out to Luis Suarez for biting Branislav Ivanovic, suggesting they are ready to appeal against the Football Association independent regulatory commission's verdict.
On top of the statutory three-game ban for violent conduct, the panel gave Suarez an additional seven-game suspension for trying to bite the arm of the Chelsea defender during Sunday's game at Anfield.
Liverpool, who had already implied they would appeal against any ban over three games, expressed their disappointment with the verdict even though the FA signalled before the hearing that three games would be "clearly insufficient for the offence".
The club's managing director, Ian Ayre, said: "Both the club and player are shocked and disappointed at the severity of the independent regulatory commission decision. We await the written reasons before making any further comment."
Suarez, Liverpool and the FA will receive the commission's report today. Only once they have digested the full reason behind the additional seven-game ban can any party begin to contemplate an appeal, although Liverpool's stance of supporting the player through both this and his previous involvement with the commission – when he was charged and found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra – suggests they will challenge the decision. Especially as after the Evra verdict Liverpool also stated they were "very surprised and disappointed".
Ayre said the day after the biting incident that Liverpool hoped the player would stay at Anfield for the remaining four years of his contract, although the club fined him two weeks' wages, believed to be in excess of £200,000.
Suarez was warned during the Evra hearing about his future conduct and the eight-game suspension he was given then is a likely reason why the punishment was a 10-game ban. The player was also found guilty of making a gesture towards Fulham fans in December 2011, which brought him a one-game suspension.
Suarez will miss the next three games against Newcastle, Everton and Fulham regardless of whether an appeal is made. However, Liverpool have until 12pm tomorrow to launch an appeal against the length of the suspension. They may yet find the reason given by the panel leaves them little scope to challenge the report's findings, and their support of the player for whom they paid Ajax £23m may have to remain a verbal one. It is clear they do not want to lose a striker who has scored 23 Premier League goals this season.
There is also the possibility the commission simply found the behaviour of Suarez, in biting an opponent, deplorable in its own right and deemed that worthy of an additional seven-game suspension. Suarez received a seven-game ban from the Dutch FA when he bit the PSV Eindhoven player Otman Bakkal in November 2010.
Any appeal would also carry the possibility of having the length of Suarez's ban extended, as a new panel would sit. It may also be shown that the FA asked for a longer suspension, given the extraordinary nature of Suarez's offence and his previous misconduct in the English game.
It is expected that the findings of the three-man panel, made up of a former player, a member of the FA Council and a lawyer, will not be made public until the parties involved have had the chance to digest the reasons given for the length of the suspension. In the previous two high-profile cases involving John Terry and then Suarez and Evra, the FA eventually published the findings on their own website and, given the controversial nature of the incident and the length of ban, that is likely to happen again.
If Liverpool and Suarez do not appeal against the length of the suspension, the forward would also miss the final Premier League game of the season against Queen's Park Rangers plus the first five league games at the start of next season, as well as a League Cup tie, assuming, of course, that he is still a Liverpool player at that point.