Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool claim Suarez evidence withheld

By Ian Herbert

Liverpool last night claimed the Football Association was guilty of systematic bias and suggested sections of evidence had been deliberately withheld, as they begrudgingly accepted Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for the abuse of the Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

Though a regulatory commission has published a 115-page report of unprecedented detail in finding that Suarez used the word "negro" or "negros" seven times in the space of two minutes when Liverpool played Manchester United on 15 October, Dalglish said the club would not apologise and suggested that sections of evidence had been omitted from the commission's written reasons, published on New Year's Eve. "We know what has gone on. We know what is not in the report and that's important for us," Dalglish said. "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 I am just saying it is really unfortunate you never got to hear it."

Pressed on precisely what had been omitted, Dalglish declined to say. When it was suggested that if Liverpool were unhappy they should appeal the commission's verdict, he insisted: "There's a lot of things we'd like to say and a lot we could say, but we would only get ourselves in trouble. We are being evasive because we don't like getting ourselves in trouble."

Dalglish has been on the receiving end of the greatest criticism for the Suarez T-shirts he and his players wore before their game at Wigan on 21 December, a gesture he said last night had been "a fabulous statement to make, visually, of their support of a guy who is endeared in the dressing room, one of their closest friends in the dressing room."

The FA, which convened the commission, did not respond publicly to a Liverpool statement, sanctioned by the club's American owners, claiming that the commission "chose to consistently and methodically accept and embrace arguments leading to a set of conclusions that found Mr Suarez to 'probably' be guilty."

But Liverpool, whose miserable start to the new year was compounded by a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, have taken relations between the club and the governing body lower than ever. The FA would have been prepared to establish another three-man commission had Liverpool wanted to appeal.

Liverpool said they were only accepting the ban now to prevent their work with the football authorities in fighting racism from being obscured and when it was put to Dalglish that some kind of apology might be in order for the use of the word "negro" he replied: "I would have thought that if you pronounced the word properly, you maybe understand it better."

The manager appeared to hint that Suarez had been punished because the FA wanted to make a point about racism. "Maybe wrong place, wrong time. It could have been anybody. I can't answer for the FA, you ask them," he said.

Suarez will return for the club's home match with Tottenham on 6 February – thus missing only four Premier League games. If Liverpool are eliminated from the FA Cup at the third-round stage, against Oldham Athletic on Friday, he will be back for the club's trip to Old Trafford on 13 February.

The Uruguayan, who said ahead of the commission inquiry that whoever was found to be in the wrong should apologise, also refused to back down. "In my country, 'negro' is a word we use commonly," he said said. "A word which doesn't show any lack of respect and is even less so a form of racist abuse."

Statements: Liverpool and Suarez have their say

Liverpool statement:

It is our strongly held conviction that the Football Association and the panel it selected constructed a highly subjective case against Luis Suarez based on an accusation that was ultimately unsubstantiated. The FA and the panel chose to consistently accept and embrace arguments leading to a set of conclusions that found Mr Suarez to "probably" be guilty, while in the same manner deciding to completely dismiss the testimony that countered their overall suppositions.

Mr Evra was deemed to be credible in spite of admitting that he himself used insulting and threatening words towards Luis and that his initial charge as to the word used was somehow a mistake. The facts in this case were that an accusation was made, a rebuttal was given and there was video of the match. The remaining facts came from testimony of people who did not corroborate any accusation made by Mr Evra.

In its determination to prove its conclusions to the public through a subjective 115-page document, the FA panel has damaged the reputation of one the Premier League's best players, deciding he should be punished and banned for perhaps a quarter of a season. This case has also provided a template in which a club's rival can bring about a significant ban for a player without anything beyond an accusation.

Nevertheless, there are ultimately larger issues than whether or not Luis Suarez has been treated fairly by the Football Association in this matter. There are important points we want to make that overshadow what has occurred during the past two months.English football has led the world in welcoming all nationalities into its Premier League, and Liverpool Football Club has been a leader in taking a progressive stance on issues of race. The Luis Suarez case has to end so that the Premier League, the Football Association and the club can continue the progress that has been made and not risk a perception that would diminish our commitment on these issues.

Liverpool have supported Luis Suarez because we fundamentally do not believe that Luis did engage in a racist act. Notably, his actions on and off the pitch with his team-mates and in the community have demonstrated his belief that all athletes can play together and that the colour of a person's skin is irrelevant. It is time to put the Luis Suarez matter to rest and for all of us to work to stamp out racism in every form.It is for this reason we will not appeal the eight-game suspension of Luis Suarez.

Luis Suarez statement:

I would like to thank everyone for the help and support I have received. Thank you to my family, my friends and everybody at LFC. I understood more than ever what 'You'll Never Walk Alone' means. I was born and raised learning what respect, manners and sacrifice mean. Never, I repeat, never, have I had any racial problem with a team mate who was of a different race or colour to mine. I am very upset by the things which have been said during the last few weeks about me, all of them being far from the truth. Above all, I'm very upset at feeling so powerless while being accused of something which I did not, nor would not, ever do.

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