Luis Suarez in limbo as FA fails to reach verdict
The three-man commission hearing the racial abuse charges against Luis Suarez announced last night it would delay its decision and work through the weekend, a reflection of the complexities of one of the most sensitive cases in football in recent years.
The Football Association had anticipated on Thursday that the three-man independent panel which is ruling on the allegations that Suarez racially abused the Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in Liverpool's match against the French defender's team at Anfield two months ago would deliver its verdict yesterday.
At 6.30pm last night, the FA announced that the panel, comprising of Paul Goulding QC; Brian Jones chairman of Sheffield and Hallamshire FA and former player and manager Denis Smith, would work through the weekend to reach a verdict. The governing body said that it did not expect a ruling before Tuesday.
Although all sides want a swift resolution to the charges against Suarez – over which Liverpool will certainly appeal if he is found guilty – the governing body is aware that such a sensitive case cannot be rushed.
Suarez himself gave evidence on Thursday to the panel, which has convened in an as yet undisclosed hotel in the North-west of England.
A statement from the FA last night said: "The Independent Regulatory Commission [the three-man panel] has confirmed there will be no decision this evening and will continue working through the weekend.
"There will be no announcement on any decision before Tuesday 20 December 2011 at the earliest."
Having charged Suarez, the FA acts as the prosecution in the case. The player is defended by lawyers enlisted by Liverpool. The three-man panel is effectively the judge and jury. It is independent and drawn from a list compiled by the FA's discipline and control department at the start of the season that all clubs endorse in advance.
The crux of the case relates to whether comments in Spanish by Suarez towards Evra constituted racial abuse.
It understood – although has not been confirmed by Liverpool or the FA – that Suarez admitted to using the term "negro" but contextualised it in his evidence by saying that in his native Uruguay it is not regarded as a racial slur and was not intended as one when directed at Evra.
Suarez was charged on 16 November with having used "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour ... contrary to FA rules" and the further allegation that "this included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra".
The Fulham manager, Martin Jol, who was Suarez's manager for 18 months at Ajax, said yesterday that he would be "surprised" if the allegations were proved to be true.
"If it is true, I certainly would be [surprised]", he said. "At Ajax we had players from all over the world, with all the continents involved and he was good with them all.
"He was my captain and you can imagine I told him it was his job to make them feel comfortable. He didn't speak a lot of Dutch but he did it in his way and for me he was a real leader. A real leader would never do things like that. If it is true, I can't believe it."