We Let Suarez Down

Posted: January 5, 2012 in Sport
Tags: , , , , , ,

I have been troubled throughout the entire period of the Luis Suarez, Patrice Evra, racism row.

I have felt unsure about what exactly was troubling me the most; aside from the natural discomfort one would expect when someone you feel a loyalty to has been accused of racism – and have only today come to the conclusion that the unsettling feeling was primarily due to the way we appear to have handled the situation; how we appear to have let both Suarez and Evra down.

When I say we, I mean us – Liverpool Football Club; The FA; FIFA; the media and anyone else who could have and should have ensured that the events of the past few weeks did not play out in the fashion that they have.

For those of you who do not have even a cursory understanding of the subject matter at hand, allow me to provide the briefest of overviews:

During a game of professional football a confrontation occurred between Suarez and Evra – the details of which will never, ever, truly be known; not even by Suarez or Evra – as memory and perception do not always square with reality and fact, and the accusation made was one based on nothing more than one persons word against another.

Subsequent to the confrontation Evra made an accusation that he had been racially abused by Suarez. Now, it is important to understand that, to me, the term ‘game’ in this context should be interpreted as ‘at work’.

It is from this point of view that I consider the duty of care that could have, and perhaps should have, been extended to both Evra and Suarez has been nothing but a complete and utter failing on the part of professional football (my opinion).

The ‘story’ has made for sensational back-page headlines for the tabloid press. The characters of both Evra and Suarez have been subject to intense scrutiny and the reputation of both players, Liverpool Football Club and football in general have come under microscopic examination.

This episode has demonstrated, yet again, how the world of football is light years away from the world in which each and every one of us lives and works in.

Consider what might have happened if any one of us had been accused of racial harassment in the work-place; how many of us would have found ourselves suspended, on full pay, without any inference of guilt, whilst an investigation took place to determine if there were any grounds for disciplinary proceedings.

Consider why we might have been suspended; to protect us from ourselves; to protect the business from any further harm; to ensure an investigation could take place without prejudice or discomfort for the accused whilst it took place – to ensure the business had a good grasp of the facts behind the allegation before making any decisions.

Consider that we would most likely have been informed, for our own good, not to make any comments about the subject to anyone; not to contact a fellow colleague even – as it might contaminate the investigation. We most likely would have been advised that the accusation was one of significant gravity as to constitute gross mis-conduct – so that we had a clear understanding of how serious the matter was and why it was important that we investigate the matter thoroughly.

As unpleasant as that might have been, it would have been done for our own good, for the good of the alleged ‘victim’ and to ensure a duty of care was applied to all concerned, including the business.

Protecting the player (employee) was absolutely the right thing to do. The manner in which we protected him, in my opinion, perhaps was not.

Then again, my opinion is only based upon what I have read and that does not necessarily mean I have any idea about what was or was not actually done.

Football continues to conduct its business as though it were just a sport. It seems to have overlooked the fact it became a business a long time ago.

A business with as many employees as Liverpool Football Club, with a Brand as globally prominent as Liverpool Football Club, would have a clear code of conduct, a set process of how to manage an allegation of gross mis-conduct and a Human Resources Department that would ensure everyone understood their responsibilities and duties in the event a situation such as this occurred.

Our response as a club, whilst admirably adhering to our ethos of leaving no one to walk alone through a storm, could have and perhaps should have taken a lead from how this situation would have been handled in the real world.

I stand by Luis Suarez. I stand by Kenny Dalglish and always will. I stand by all connected to Liverpool Football Club.

However, we should have at least considered the chance that something Suarez said caused offence to Patrice Evra, whether it was intentional or not.  We should have approached the allegation impartially, objectively and professionally, not just out of loyalty.

We should have mitigated how much information went out into the public domain and we should have thrown a shroud of confidentiality and security around Suarez until our internal investigation was completed.

Liverpool Football Club was 100% right to stand up for Luis Suarez, but we need to consider the possibility that we could have done a better, more professional job.  We could have conducted a forensic investigation and bolstered our defense built upon a solid foundation of facts.  We should have been so prepared in our defense that Evra, if he has in fact mislead the FA, would now be serving out a ban for his part.

Our public communications should have been that we take the allegation seriously and are determined to look into the matter further.  Nothing else.

As it is, Suarez has been through the public mill, Evra may have escaped punishment for his conduct in the matter and a chance to achieve a different outcome has been lost.  We may even have lost an opportunity to mediate a discourse between the two players to the point where any ‘misunderstanding’ was clarified.

We are Liverpool Football Club and we have a duty of care to football.  We have a duty to set a higher standard for others to follow.  We have a duty to ensure that we, to the absolute best of our ability, take care of our own.

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Comments
  1. ajjam says:

    Hi Mark,

    First of all I want to thank you for this blog entry. You have helped me to identify how I feel about the issue.

    “I have been troubled throughout the entire period of the Luis Suarez, Patrice Evra, racism row.”

    Yeah, me too.

    “Protecting the player (employee) was absolutely the right thing to do. The manner in which we protected him, in my opinion, perhaps was not.”

    Yes, I think you have hit the nail on the head, Mark.

    More than most, and perhaps more than any, we Liverpool supporters have our sacred cows. You mess with them and you mess with us all.

    The thing that troubled me here was that The Club’s attitude in defending Suarez could be summarised as, “How dare you accuse one of our players of using racist language; we’re Liverpool FC, don’t you know?”

    Liverpool FC used the sacred cow defence.

    But Suarez has been found guilty and the manner of the club’s defence, rather than the fact that it did defend him, has now rebounded.

    Once local piece commented on the that he had made a presumption, from Liverpool’s robust defence of Suarez, that led him to believe that the club had some sort of “magic bullet” defence that would show Suarez as being innocent – but it seems all the club had up its sleeve was its arm.

    It seems pretty clear to me that Suarez said something that he should not have said and he is rightly being pulled up for it. You can choose to believe otherwise, as I don’t know any more than you do, but I don’t think the matter would have gone this way if Suarez was innocent – and I am far more inclined to cynicism than naivete.

    We are a loyal bunch, but we should not condone this, or be seen to condone it, by, for example, dismissing it as ‘unproven’ to the standard required in a court of law. I am not so sure that had Suarez been tried that he would have been found innocent. I’ve sat on juries. They use common sense, too.

    If Liverpool FC had gone about this more along the lines that Mark has suggested, perhaps the outcome and punishment might not have been quite so harsh.

    Perhaps – perhaps – perhaps.

    In my opinion, the defence that Liverpool has given Suarez – along with the player’s reputation away from Liverpool – have all conspired to worsen the extent of the punishment, and to the overshadowing of what Evra said/did to the point where he has effectively got away with it. He became the victim only.

    I would also remind people that Suarez has been playing football in Europe since 2006. Using the fact that he is from South America, therefore, as some kind of excuse for his language was never likely to hold much sway with a supposedly impartial body – and even less sway if it wasn’t.

    Now I think it is very much a case of take the punishment, learn lessons and move on – but thanks to at least one more person spouting off – a ‘fan’ this time – our club and our fans are now being taunted and tarred as racists by other ‘fans’ – because now there have been two well publicised incidents for such comments to be hung onto, instead of one.

    The repercussions may not end here, I’m afraid.

    As for when Suarez returns I will cheer him on as a Liverpool player – and he is a cracking player after all – but between now and then I would expect Liverpool FC to be taking great pains to ensure that Suarez does not re-offend in this or any other significant way.

    There’s been enough come-back as it is, thank you very much.

    • You always add to the debate with your comments – thank you. I agree, there may still be more pain to come. Don’t know where, when or how – but too many seem intent of venting their fury at the outcome than reflecting.

  2. Kev says:

    I found this an interesting read, however in regards to “We may even have lost an opportunity to mediate a discourse between the two players to the point where any ‘misunderstanding’ was clarified.”, I don’t feel we have missed anything.
    Mr Ferguson has made his feelings clear over Liverpools attempt to hold dialogue over the next (at the time) game at old toilet, any attempt to hold a discourse would have been met with the same sneering indifference that Ferguson has shown for an effort to head off shameful acts by either set of fans.
    I personally choose to look at the report and accept that the Suarez version of events were “probably” more accurate,and will remain a fan of Suarez & Liverpool

    • I take your point, and you are most probably right – he would likely have declined any offer to resolve the matter. I just do not think it would have hurt our case to try.

      “I personally choose to look at the report and accept that the Suarez version of events were “probably” more accurate,and will remain a fan of Suarez & Liverpool” – On both counts, I agree. I just regret the fact we were unable to get the FA to concede to that probability as well.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. PeeBea Mac says:

    Your analysis is very concise, and no matter that the FA have decided their outcome, Luis Suarez was tried and convicted in the media long before the said judgment was published.
    My concern has always been that Suarez was not properly advised, and did not understand the ramifications of what he was saying.
    Patrice Evra, by his own admission, had crudely insulted Suarez’ sister, yet he and the FA seem to believe that this was irrelevant. I personally would go for the jugular if someone had referred to my sisters or daughters in those terms. So why has Mr. Evra not been punished for using abusive language?
    A case of double standards here, and further proof, as if it were needed, that a once proud tradition of justice is being corroded for political ends.

    • Exactly! That’s the problem as I see it. Suarez could have been advised that it was understandable that Evra could take offence to what Suarez had said, whether it was intentional or not. Based on that acknowledgement, Suarez could have apologised for the impact, regardless of the intent, and thus ensured the FA had plenty of time to take Evra to task for his part in the confrontation.

  4. You make an excellent point here about the fact that the incident happened at “work” . Exactly. But sports organisations frequently don’t operate like that and tend to forget that “work” is what it has become, particularly in football. It would seem that incidents like this also place the governing body in the spotlight. A light from which they would rather shy than embrace, I feel.

    • Yes, and that is why I feel FIFA are extremely complicit in this matter, as they have been negligent in their handling of racism in football for far too long. Fine to football associations that are less than a weeks wages for a single top-flight player in no way send a strong enough message that bigotry in the sport is not to be tolerated.

      I hope that this serves as a watershed moment and all following incidents are treated with the same forensic focus.

      • I heard Alan Green (?), the Five Live presenter on the radio say that FIFA are not serious about getting to grips with bigotry in the game. HIs point being that how could they give the Euros to Ukraine and ther World Cup to Russia if they were. Both countries with terrible human rights records regarding race.

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