Liverpool told to apologise as Suarez row rumbles on
Liverpool were under mounting pressure last night to issue an apology for Luis Suarez's conduct towards Manchester United's Patrice Evra in the game which has brought him an eight-match ban – and to withdraw any plans to appeal against the decision of an independent regulatory commission which found the Uruguayan used the word "negro" or "negros" seven times in a two-minute period of the Anfield match in October.
Liverpool maintained a steadfast silence on the commission's report yesterday and, 72 hours after the the exhaustive and apparently watertight reasoning was delivered to them, have not moved beyond a holding statement declaring their intent to digest the contents.
While the report clears the Uruguayan of racism, the picture it paints of club personnel altering statements to fall in line with Suarez's explanation of why he used the word "negro" – in contravention of FA rule E3(1) – is an embarrassing one which will sit uncomfortably with the club's owners, Fenway Sports Group. On the one occasion when Suarez addressed Evra's claims in public, he declared that "depending on who ends up in the wrong, one of us will have to apologise". His club's reputation is being done no service by the absence of one.
Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, a network of anti-racism groups on the Continent, yesterday led calls for the club to change their stance.
"Luis Suarez and Liverpool FC have the right to appeal," Mr Powar said. "However, we would call on the club to think again about their public campaign to dispute the charges and contest the principles involved in the case. As a club with a good international standing the vehemence of their campaign is unquestionably causing them reputational harm."
Liverpool's stance has raised questions about leadership at the top of the club. The controversy has not been well handled by Liverpool, with the club's strategy seemingly being driven by manager Kenny Dalglish.
The commission report detailed the FA's case that Evra asked Suarez why he had kicked him, to which the forward replied: "Because you are black." When Evra challenged him to repeat the answer and said he would "punch him", Suarez said: "I don't speak to blacks."
The report, released on Saturday evening, details how Evra then told Suarez he was going to hit him, to which the Uruguay international replied in Spanish: "Dale, negro, negro, negro." That translates as: "OK, blackie, blackie, blackie."
In the absence of video footage which enables investigators to lip-read exchanges between the two players and with no Manchester United players able to provide direct corroboration of Evra's story, the commission report relies heavily on the credibility of the two players as witnesses. It dispels one of the central points by which Evra might have been discredited, finding that there was no question that the defender told the referee Andre Marriner he was booking him during the 1-1 draw because he was black.
While Evra emerges as a credible witness, Suarez's testimony is found to be dubious in parts and his actions are found to have "damaged the image of English football around the world". The player is warned that two similar offences in the future could lead to a "permanent suspension".
Liverpool have been given until 13 January to respond, meaning Suarez will be free to play in their next three games. If he admits the offence now, four of the games he misses could be cup fixtures.