The most popular headline after the FA released the reasons for finding Suarez guilty of a breach of FA rule E3 was that his testimony was found to be unreliable. No national or international writers have taken a counter-stance. The media needs Suarez to be the villain. They have wanted him to be so ever since Liverpool signed him last year. He was already the villain at the World Cup for the handball incident and in The Netherlands for biting an opponent. Suarez as a villain sells papers. What doesn’t sell papers? Fanning the flames of racial tensions.
It was not long ago that riots swept across England largely due to racial disenfranchisement. People in England do not like to talk about race or racism. And why would they? Nearly 90% of England is White and White people get uncomfortable thinking that members of the majority group would treat minorities differently. Race is not an important part of a White person’s identity. No one sits around thinking about the benefits of being White because it was an environment he or she was born into and that is just the way it has always been. Which, oddly enough brings us to Rule E3 (2).
Rule E3 is as follows:
“(1) A Participant shall at all times act in the best interests of the game and shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.
(2) In the event of any breach of Rule E3(1) including a reference to any one or more of a person’s ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, faith, gender, sexual orientation or disability (an “aggravating factor”), a Regulatory Commission shall consider the imposition of an increased sanction, taking into account the following entry points:
For a first offence, a sanction that is double that which the Regulatory Commission would have applied had the aggravating factor not been present.
For a second offence, a sanction that is treble that which the Regulatory Commission would have applied had the aggravating factor not been present.
Any further such offence(s) shall give rise to consideration of a permanent suspension.
These entry points are intended to guide the Regulatory Commission and are not mandatory.
The Regulatory Commission shall have the discretion to impose a sanction greater or less than the entry point, according to the aggravating or mitigating factors present in each case.”
Thou shalt not refer to any person’s ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, faith, gender, sexual orientation or disability because heaven forbid anyone point out that people are in fact different. I suppose that would apply to me as well if someone called me a damn American during a match. They said “damn” which is abusive and since they referred to my nationality, that makes it somewhat of a hate crime. For some reason though, I think I would have a tough time with the FA taking up my complaint.
But enough complaining about the FA’s rules because that’s not really the point I’m out to make anyway. The problem I have with the rules is the application of them. Evra and Suarez could agree that he did say “negro” at least once. Now again, that’s nay’-gro not nee-groh. One’s Spanish, one’s not. Either way, you translate it, Suarez did refer to Evra’s colour. Of course, for that to matter, he would have said something insulting or abusive first, according to the FA’s E3 (1) rule. But, let’s not start following the rules too much because that just complicates things.
According to the report released by the FA, they had two self-proclaimed experts from Manchester (where else would they be from?): Peter Wade and James Scorer. The professors, who do not specialize in Uruguay, decided that the use of the word “negro” could be offensive depending on context. This is where the story really begins.
Evra says that Suarez used the word negatively several times. Was it caught on camera? No. Did the Manchester United keeper who was standing right next to them testify that he heard it? No. Dirk Kuyt has always been a model player for the club. He stated that he was absolutely sure he heard Evra say that the referee had carded him because he was black. Was that testimony used? No. Was anything done in response to Evra admitting to referring to Suarez as a South American? No. The only things that are clearly documented by corroborating statements are the use of the word “negro” and “South American”. Is there any solid evidence showing that either was used in an insulting way? No.
Back to attempting to follow the rules, the FA’s own rules spells out the conditions for punishment. “For a first offence, a sanction that is double that which the Regulatory Commission would have applied had the aggravating factor not been present.” That is to say, Suarez should get double whatever punishment he would get for insulting Evra without using a word referring to his colour. In what world would any person be given a FOUR match ban for insulting another player? The FA decided that since this was such an important case, they could ignore their own rules because trying to follow them complicates things.
This case is all about hearsay. One person’s word against another. The FA stated that the burden of proof was on them and they have chosen to prove this case by simply believing Evra over Suarez. For them it’s Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation is the most plausible one. Suarez is a villain, therefore is he should be punished for which he is accused. The FA wanted it that way. The country was begging for it to be that way. No one wanted a long, complicated saga that would increase racial tensions. The outcome has now even divided fans of the club.
Some who supported Suarez in the beginning have now abandoned ship and wondered why the club ever stood by his side. I am not one of those. The club stood by his side before and should continue to, however, they probably realized there is no way in hell that anything positive is going to come out of this and are cutting their losses. Suarez’s reputation has been damaged, even if he was victorious in an appeal, it wouldn’t be restored. The club is now being painted as supporting a person who has been labeled a racist by the national media and that is eventually going to have a global effect and start meaning a loss of revenue. The club needs to sell Suarez shirts and the best way to do that is to get on with business as usual and hope that everyone forgets this mess sooner than later.
I, for one, have a feeling of despair. I’ve learned to understand that when it comes to the FA, we are essentially helpless as to what actions the self-preserving authority will take. One thing is for sure, they will always act in their own interest while ignoring opinions in the minority. They will do as the majority bids, regardless of whether the outcomes have a negative impact to those in the margins.