Will Suarez-Evra verdict help fight discrimination?

THE FA announced on Friday evening there was still no decision on the Suarez-Evra case, that it would be tomorrow at the earliest before the outcome would be made public and that Liverpool would have to go into a tenth competitive game with the allegations hanging over them and still no resolution.

The last bit wasn’t actually mentioned in the FA’s statement but since Patrice Evra made his allegations on October 15th the Reds have played eight league games and two Carling Cup games with Luis Suarez under the spotlight that comes from being publicly accused of something as abhorrent as racism.

The FA and the two clubs haven’t said anything in detail, at least on the record, about exactly what Patrice Evra accused Luis Suarez of saying. The FA’s charge was full of ‘and/or’s, suggesting they’re prepared to fall back on doing him for abuse if they can’t prove the racist abuse charges.

When Evra went to French TV to make his allegations public (it still isn’t clear whether he did this before or after telling the referee and his manager) he didn’t go as far as saying what the actual word was that had offended him – or in what context it had been uttered. Suarez was, inevitably, asked what had gone on when he was back home for the recent international break and although he said the word in question was one Evra’s own team mates call him he also didn’t go into details about what it actually was.

The FA reportedly asked the two clubs not to discuss the case but such requests hardly fit well with the model they helped set up for top-level football in this country. The Premier League is what it is because of the money it brings in from media coverage and in particular the TV coverage. This means managers are contractually obliged to speak to the media at certain times before and after games (even if one manager ignores those obligations, without fear of punishment, as and when it suits) and so the managers will face questions about the big talking points involving their clubs.

This case is certainly a big talking point so both managers have been asked about it. Neither has responded with any details, but the idea they’ll be able to go through a press conference or post match interview without touching on it in some way is ludicrous. Of course it has had little effect on Patrice Evra or Manchester United, it’s Luis Suarez and Liverpool who are playing under a cloud awaiting a decision and so it’s Kenny Dalglish who’s asked about it the most often.

Luis has Kenny's full support

Suarez has Dalglish's full support

Dalglish has, on the whole, repeated support for the player and criticised the time it has taken to reach various stages, pointing out at one stage that it had been over three weeks before Liverpool or Suarez were asked for their side of the story. At the end of October he said the case seemed to “dragging its feet” and said: “We’d rather have it done and dusted, out in the open and whoever’s the guilty party – the person who said it or the accuser – get their due punishment.”

As time has gone on it seems less likely there will be such a cut and dry decision. The possibility of a misunderstanding was raised in November when the Guardian reported: “Top-level sources at Old Trafford say the offending word was uttered in Spanish and allegedly was a derivative of ‘negro’.”  The Guardian also reported that “[Evra] and United have subsequently been informed that the case does not merely rest on what Suárez said but also, crucially, the context in which his words were used.”

A number of broadsheets went with a similar story the same day, without citing those “top-level sources”, but the impression the Guardian’s report gave was that the information came from somewhere in the Manchester United camp, perhaps with elements of it from multiple sources, including connections to the player. But it does quite clearly and specifically refer to “top-level sources at Old Trafford”.

A few days after these claims were published Alex Ferguson decided to pretend they hadn’t. The author of the story in The Guardian is one of those allegedly banned from Ferguson’s press conferences so maybe Ferguson doesn’t read his work and missed that version of the story. Maybe he read it and didn’t notice the “top-level sources at Old Trafford” bit.  Maybe he just chose to play ignorant.

Acting like a man who knows he’ll never be challenged in a press conference, Ferguson said: “We’ve been asked by the FA not to say anything about the Evra situation and we’ve abided by that.” No mention of “top-level sources at Old Trafford” speaking to the media on the quiet about the case, instead it was: “I think Liverpool have been drip-feeding a lot of stuff out in the last couple of weeks, but, at the end of the day, the FA will deal with that.”

Beyond the pale

"He's a foreigner, he doesn't understand..."

With a case as serious this there is no place for petty point-scoring but Alex Ferguson seemed intent on doing just that. He’s done it throughout his time as Manchester United’s manager and knows he’ll be able to do it without worrying about the consequences to him or his team. It’s a tactic he’s made extensive use of down the years and often to great effect. He’ll condemn a rival manager as “beyond the pale” for celebrating his own team’s goal in a game he had nothing to do with as easily as he’ll turn the blame onto his rivals for “drip feeding” information from an investigation of racism.

There seems to be little difference in his motives for either.

“I understand that they want to protect their player, he’s an asset, you can understand that, but we’re just abiding by the FA,” he claimed, laughably.

Two months after the incident took place and only after the hearing itself had started came an article from Henry Winter that added new details to all those previous reports. By this stage the hearing had already begun and so the article was highly unlikely to make a difference to the proceedings, but if the information supplied was accurate it shows why this wasn’t as straightforward a case as some assumed.

Winter wrote: “Referee Andre Marriner called the pair together for a lecture. Suárez apologised and attempted to pat the United full-back on the head. ‘Don’t touch me, you South American,’ Evra is alleged to have said. To which, the Uruguayan replied: ‘Porque, Negro?’”

What wasn’t made clear in that article is whether the words from Evra were also in Spanish. If they were in Spanish, did he use “sudamericano” or a shortened version often used in Spain, “sudaca”?

“Sudaca” means “South American” but isn’t usually directed in a nice way. It’s usually aimed at South American immigrants; it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how offensive it can be. It’s more difficult to imagine Evra actually saying, in English, “you South American,” as part of his order to Suarez not to touch him.


Sympathy: Reaction was to being called a French (expletive).

Winter’s article also referred to another alleged comment from Evra, one he made to Marriner after being booked for a foul on Dirk Kuyt. He wrote: “Evra responded to Marriner’s caution by allegedly claiming: ‘You’re only booking me because I’m black.’”

If this is true it calls into question the FA’s approach to the case from the outset. If it is true, why wasn’t Evra charged for it?

As with the stuff in the papers about what Suarez said, we don’t actually know how true it is, whether something has been missed out, whether the context is being overlooked or whether it’s coming from sources with more interest in one side of this case than the other.

We know that the story has been milked by some with more interest in petty point-scoring than in seeing racism stamped out. Suarez handballWe’ve seen people pretending to care about racism at the same time as laughing dismissively at any suggestion that cultural differences of the accused might have some relevance, failing to see the problem in that particular approach. We’ve seen broadsheet writers gleefully take one of Fergie’s pitchforks and write in a way that suggested an overturned red card (for what was still a foul) and a handball on the goal line added weight to those accusations of racism. We’ve even seen comments from a compatriot of the man in the firing line taken as though it was the man himself who’d said them – after all, they’re from the same country.

Meanwhile, in a hotel somewhere off the M6, the panel have seen all the evidence and spoken to any relevant witnesses. They’ve had the chance to ask questions and the chance to check facts. Now they’ve got a decision make and they must get that decision right. They’re better equipped than anyone else to do that.

When they’ve made it, will football be any better off for it? Will the outcome of the case lead to an end to discrimination of any kind in the game?

That, as with the outcome of this case, remains to be seen.


  • Mark

    No matter what the outcome, I think that this is a step back for the fight against racism.

    If Suarez is found guilty, it will be seen by many as an overreaction and political response to a harmless interaction.

    If Suarez is found not guilty, it will be seen by many as the FA/government does not really want to fight racism and people who are rightly victims of racism should not speak out.

    The FA should never have charged him – this is a step back for race relations and will be a black mark on the FA, Kick it out, and every other organization fighting racism that had a say in this case.

  • Chas

    True mark. And something else …….
    Justice delayed is justice denied ……. whatever the outcome.

  • Bill

    The FA would never have charged him but for the usual interference from Old Red Nose. It was he who told Evra to go and see the ref in the first place, he just can’t stand Liverpool having a player he coveted but couldn’t afford. He sits back now relishing the trouble he has caused.

  • Steve

    They will use suarez as a scapegoat in order for John Terry to escape any ban,and Terry was caught on camera a good few times in the game against QPR.It is a disgrace if suarez gets a ban and Terry walks free and just because he’s in the England team

  • BD Condell

    @Bill. Blinkered bias knows no bounds really! Immediatelty after Evra originally made the complaint Ferguson went on record to diffuse things and said that this is not something between Utd and Liverpool but just between the two players. He also said that Evra had indicated after the match that he wanted to lodge a complaint with the ref. Ferguson stated: “I asked if he was absolutely sure that he wanted to pursue this and he said he was.”

    But of course in your world that was all just bluff and bluster. Your remarks and similar sentiments in the article only go to show that where rivalries are concerned objectivity will never be in play and those who claim to have the moral fibre to fight racism on all fronts can be found convincing themselves easily that there is no case to answer.

    Did Suarez use a racially fuelled word in a heated situation, something that made reference to Evra’s race or ethnicity? Yes, and it has been admitted. So there is certainly a case to answer.

    Unfortunately, it has already been answered beyond dispute by most Liverpool fans and if the verdict goes against Suarez there will be an outcry and, of course, the club will appeal…………..a club that has alerady behaved shamelessly in this whole affair. As soon as it was revealed that the race loaded term was used Liverpool should have kept their distance if they want to retain any credibility in the claim to be at the forefront of opposing racism.

    At that point there was a real possibility that something wrong had taken place but moral standing takes a back-seat to losing your best player all day long it appears. There are many players that I’d be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to but not Suarez. He has long since registered his personality as being that of a volatile, argumentative, short fused player who likes nothing better than to mouth off on the pitch.

    I’ll leave it up to the review panel to decide and accept their verdict as they are the only ones that have reviewed all the evidence and looked the players in the eyes. It doesn’t really matter to me what the verdict is….it’s the nonsense being spread by the fans that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    But what else could I have expected?

    • @BD – Very objective and not a hint of blinkered bias. Especially this bit: “There are many players that I’d be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to but not Suarez. He has long since registered his personality as being that of a volatile, argumentative, short fused player who likes nothing better than to mouth off on the pitch.”

      I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to think of countless players who might be described as “volatile, argumentative” and “short fused”. Players who “mouth off on the pitch” a lot. We’re talking past and present players for LFC, MUFC and every other club.

      And by your standards they won’t be given any benefit of the doubt if someone accuses them of racism.

      Craig Bellamy, Javier Mascherano, Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney, Robby Savage… All candidates to be found guilty for anything thrown at them based on a reputation for mouthing off about decisions that go against them.

      In fact one player who springs to mind straight away played in both shades of red. Paul Ince. He was always arguing, wasn’t he?

      What you’ve missed from that objective viewpoint of yours is that by your rules Evra himself doesn’t deserve any benefit of the doubt. He was on a “short fuse” from the off in that game – before it even started in fact. He literally argued the toss with the referee and was “volatile” “mouthing off” throughout.

      “Most Liverpool fans” I know don’t which way this is going to go and they say this because (as stated above in the article) none of us know the full facts. Of course they’re hoping it goes in LFC’s and Suarez’s favour, but they don’t want it to go that way on a technicality.

      • BD Condell

        @Jim: I agree wholeheartedly with all the players you mention with a short fuse. In a similiar situation I wouldn’t give any of them the benefit of the doubt either. That’s based on their capacity for the ‘red mist’ and, hence, to say things during that state that are irrational and not definitive off their real persona.

        By extension of that point I don’t for a minute think that Suarez is a racist but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t a case to answer. Not giving someone the benefit of the doubt does not for a minute suggest that the evidence should not be looked at in detail and that they shouldn’t be treated absolutely fairly on such a sensitive issue. They should. It just means that their propensity to explode makes it more likely for them (as opposed to more balanced players) to do or say the irrational. I’m not sure many would disagree with that.

        The point is that I’ve read numerous Liverpool fan blogs on this subject and the general consensus is that the circumstancial evidence proffered by the Suarez defence team is gospel, not taking the above mentioned factor into consideration at all.

        I also don’t disagree on your Evra point at all. He annoys me in the extreme at times. But the fact is that it has been established (admitted) that a racially fuelled term was used (negro or negrito). The only debate is whether there is a cultural explanation for the interpretation, in which case Evra is not guilty of inventing the claim. If he was found to be so I would be the first to want the book thrown at him.

        As for your final paragraph, I’ll accept that you accept you don’t have the full evidence and so can’t make a final judgement but this is certainly not the tone out there. Even you suggest a ‘technicality’.

        Why, when speaking in his home country shortly after the event did Suarez not mention the cultural interpretation issue to an audience that we are led to believe would fully understand? Why did he wait until he knew that there was irrefutable video evidence of him using a certain word to proffer this explanation?

        Is there any doubt in your mind as to the possibility that a volatile player in the heat of battle, having spent 4 years in Europe exposed to the high profile racism campaigns, was actually out of order?

        I don’t know the answer and haven’t seen the full evidence. I personally hope that he is not charged as I want to believe that under due investigation one of the players who is currently lighting-up the PL would not stoop to that and, frankly, I just want the whole ugly affair to go away.

        But I rest my case, based on what I have been reading for days now, that Liverpool fans (in general) will not accept the verdict if negative and there will be Blog mahem for weeks to come if he’s found guilty. And I further rest my case that it is indicitive of a lack of moral fibre when, on the one hand, proclaiming to be outraged by racism and, on the other, being able to justify any position when it suits our bias.

        All that said, that’s human nature unfortunately, and I don’t for a second believe that any other club’s fans would behave any differently to Liverpools, given the exact same set of circumstances.

        And that, fundamentally, is my disappointment.

        • @ BD “Why did he wait until he knew that there was irrefutable video evidence of him using a certain word to proffer this explanation?”

          Where is this evidence? As far as I’m aware there isn’t any evidence of that nature, irrefutable or otherwise.

          • BD Condell

            @Jim: But there is as far as I understand but, like many, I don’t claim to be invincible on factual knowledge. My undertsanding is that there is one piece of video evidence that (with the use of lip readers) confirms the use of that word.

            Regardless of that, Suarez now admits to using that word. What’s hard to reconcile is that Evra says he used it at least 10 times while Suarez says that he used it once. There’s a credibility gap there I think you’ll agree but how do you handle it?

            Well one suggestion is certainly that Evra is prone to exaggeration, which I wouldn’t doubt for a minute, but 10 versus one? Even if Evra is prone to exaggeration could we not at least surmise that it might be more than at least once?

            Or could we not suspect that the ‘once’ claim by Suarez is based on extreme scrutiny of the video evidence and a conclusion that he was only caught once?

            Again, I have no idea what the answer is and my only point is that fans are willing to believe unequivocally and instantly that what they want to believe is the truth of the situation on what is an issue on which we all claim the high moral gound….until it’s a claim against one of our own.

            I’m happy to be proved wrong on the video evidence and Suarez would go-up in my estimation if he admitted it without that but I again ask, if that was the case, why did he not explain it that way when interviewed in his home country?

  • Gid

    Suarez is charged for the “finger” gesture while Rooney, Cole and Terry are not charged for the same gesture.

    Any person can draw an inference from this whether the FA acts differently against non-English players. This aspect needs to be highlighted English football has a large following internationally and they should be made aware of this to shame the FA.

    Terry will get off for the QPR game because the CPS will say there is in-sufficient evidence for criminal charges and FA will use that excuse to sweep it under the carpet.

    • BD Condell

      What you miss here is that the Terry investigation is subject to a police inquiry and whatever their conclusion, based on the evidence available, is undoubtedy the line the FA will have to tow. If the police cannot uncover any evidence then the FA can hardly be expected to.

      Concluding pro English sentiment based on these two cases alone is statistically unsafe……..in the extreme.

      • I think the FA could still be in a position to charge Terry if the police decide there isn’t enough evidence for their needs. There mustn’t be enough evidence for the police to get involved in the Suarez case, but the FA are of course pursuing it.

        • BD Condell

          @Jim: I think the only difference is that a member(s) of the public complained about the Terry incident which put it into their domain. That wasn’t the case in the Suarez incident.

          I doubt the FA will bother if the police reject the Terry incident as it basically comes down to the video evidence or the statements of the two players. If the video evidence doesn’t support the claim then it generally becomes a lottery unless another player or offical offers evidence supporting one view or the other.

          These are very difficult cases to judge but comparing one to the other and making fundamental conclusions on that basis is unsafe in my opinion.

  • Jim

    Superb article… Loved the quote re ‘Top-level (Man Utd, of course) sources…’.

    Regarding Grexan Foules’ behaviour, what a coincidence that he ends his silence with the BBC in his 25th year; typical sycophancy.

    But as to the outcome of the tribunal, isn’t it a fact that the FA are terrified on this one; & as Mark says above, it will not be positive either way, because if Suarez is found guilty & banned, Liverpool could very well go after defamation. Or they may otherwise appeal, only dragging it out even more. It would also leave ‘professionals’ open with the option of accusing any opponent of all manner of accusation, whether homophobic, racist or other kinds of bigotry & abuse; which the FA would clearly have no idea on the way to deal with.
    If found innocent, the FA’s ‘Kick It Out’ will actually be lobbed into the dustbin. On the other hand, both players could be sanctioned, which again will seriously damage the FA’s Campaign, but which also ironically appears to be the correct judgment, & all this because Suarez would have been found to have said ‘a derivative of negro’ – Utterly ridiculous!

  • Bob

    Regarding the “subtle” character assaination of Suarez and the handball in the World Cup. Interesting to note that while Suarez was busy starring for his side and doing the odd bit of charity work in South Africa, French Captain Evra was busy earning a 5 match ban by striking with his self-segregated team. Even filmed by French TV, shown all over the world, having a massive argument on the training pitch with a member of the coaching staff. To put it mildly he was nothing short of an utter disgrace. Never mentioned in our press but of course, handball is more relevent in cases such as this.

    • BD Condell

      All of which means that a highly volatile player could never lapse into the unacceptable in an ongoing heated feud? Applying logical extension to what you say is challenging I’m afraid.

  • Varuna

    Does “BD Condell” write for the Guardian?

  • Mark

    Its not the verdict that matters, it is whether the FA manage to draw a line in in the sand over what is and what is not acceptable that is understood by all parties and other clubs. Until now they have talked about a zero tolerance policy without expressing what this means in practice. If they do that then it may be step forward to countering racism. There may be some justification in the cultural/linguistic defence but you cannot make clear rule out of it. I’d suggest that a suspended sentence may be the best result with a declaration that in the future any reference to another player’s race would be deemed an offence.

    • BD Condell

      Yes, but a suspended sentence implies guilt and tarnishes Suarez’ reputation. I’d need to have stared into the eyes of both players when they were giving their evidence and listened carefully to the views of the experts on the cultural issue before I could be happy taking that path.

  • naja

    If the whole thing was the other way round and it was Suarez accusing Evra of racism, even as a Liverpool supporter I would find it petty and pathetic. There is far worse abuse exchanged between players in the heat of any match and anyone who decides to take matters that far over a word, however offensive it is, is just using the headlines for a different agenda. I really can’t imagine anyone going so far if there wasn’t a vested interest somewhere – like getting a competitor’s key asset banned.

    • BD Condell

      I’ll therefore conclude that you are the first person I’ve found on an English based blog to wholeheartedly agree with what Blatter said some weeks back……for whcih he was hammered. But you’re entitled to your opinion.

      • naja

        You got me wrong: I am not talking about racism but about using it for a selfish purpose that’s got nothing to do with the heart of the matter. Sepp Blatter, on the other hand, was being an apologist for racism and, for someone in his position, it was utterly out of order.

  • Peter Grant

    If he used the words in a negative way, why didn’t one player from Man Utd react? why as is being questioned by Liverpool did only Evra hear it in the middle of a crowded goal mouth for a corner? If you heard a team mate being called something offensive, would you just stand there and ignore it? I know I certainly wouldn’t. Also Evra accused Suarez of saying it as Suarez tried to pat him on the head after both being lectured by the ref, surely the ref would of been in earshot of it?

    Also Evra said in his statement he believes Suarez is not rascist! Admitted to using a rascist comment himself in the way he called him a south american (which if your referring to anyone by their colour, creed or place of origin while speaking to them, then isn’t that rascist otherwise why say it?). If this is the case and Evra admitted that himself while Suarez says he didn’t hear Evra say it, then why isn’t Evra also charged? Or is Negro more offensive than calling someone in spanish a derogatory word for a south american? If Evra feels it was not used as a rascist remark, then why make a complaint? And also why say to the ref when he was booked 2 minutes later, your only doing it because I am black. That is rascist in itself and deserves punishment.

    Evra has a known history if exageration and even outright lying , in a court of law his statement would not be worth anything and discounted by a jury, so why do the FA act on it?

    These are all just questions I would like answered and also a charge against Fergie for his usual way of handling the case, the first “details” of all of this came from manu utd sources and then he tries to tell everyone not us gov, coming from those guys at Liverpool when Kenny responded to the questions asked about the case in response to the leak from man utd. Both parties were told NOT to discuss the case which is why Suarez kept quiet until he had to. The only people who know the facts are Suarez and Evra.

    For Suarez defence, you all seem to ignore that Poyet came out and said Negro is acceptable in Uruaguay and a lot of south american countries and also his old manager Martin Jol said I would be very surprised if he was found guilty. They have no connection to Liverpool so why say it if it has no relevance to his defence? and their belief he is innocent.

    As a defense of this I would say I work in a call centre and said to a customer “cheers Butt, thanks for your call, goodbye” the customer assumed I was calling him an ass and called back to make a complaint, It was the explained as he called into a call centre in south wales where Butt means buddy or friend it was not offensive, I was taken to one side and advised not to say it on the phone again as people mis-interprete the meaning and get offended, thats all Suarez needed!

    Last thing for Blatter is, although I thing the guy is as corrupt as can be and totally lacking of common sense etc I think what he was trying to say was that there are a lot of things that go on on a football field that shouldn’t, rascism is one of them (and I am not condoning rascism in anyway) but any remark said in offensive way is just a way to de-humanise them, enabling you to do something that you couldn’t justify to a normal person, so whether your calling them a negro, a poof or faggot etc, or even just general insulting words, if you then do something bad to them you can laugh it off saying he deserves it he is only a **** and it makes it acceptable, Blatter was trying to say you shake hands on being called insulting words after a match so why not rascist names? Totally out of touch but I believe that was his meaning.

  • Nicholas

    Suarez was accused by the victim of being racially abused.
    He admitted it.
    Racial abuse is no longer acceptable and has no place in modern football.
    His argument that it is his culture is an excuse and a cynical attempt to use ignorance as a defence. I have lived in both spain and latin america and the casual racism that hides behind ignorance is really an excuse for outdated xenophobic views. We should not be condoning this in England

    The premier League and English football should be demonstrating a willing ness to ‘kick racism out of football’ by punishing offenders.

    It is frankly embarrassing to see Liverpool football club and a large number of the fans attempt to justify this behaviour through some misguided sense of loyalty. He should take his punishment and get on with it.