There has been a lot of movement in the transfer market of late with Arsenal having secured the talents of Alexis Sanchez and also being heavily linked with money-hungry Sami Khedira. However, the biggest transfer to date has undoubtedly been the move of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, not only because of the value of the deal but also the implications of signing a player who cannot feature in any football related activity until October.
Although his new club’s President Josep Maria Bartomeu says he is ‘convinced’ that Luis Suarez will have said ban reduced and his lawyers have stated that his punishment was “blatantly draconian, totalitarian and fascist”, does the Barca front man have right to feel aggrieved?
When you enter onto the field of play or cross the white line you automatically consent to a certain amount of physical contact, for example jostling or pushing that wouldn’t be accepted on the street but biting is not one of those that come within the rules of acceptance. When compared with other bans in different sports it is hard to sympathise with the Uruguayan talisman.
If one was to take rugby for example, Bath’s England prop Kevin Yates received a six-month ban for biting the ear of London Scottish flanker Simon Fenn during a Premiership rugby game in 1998. A more extreme example is Welsh amateur player Gareth Jones who was found guilty of wounding with intent and was jailed for a year for biting off an opponents’ ear during a game for Cardiff-based side Star RFC.
When discussing biting incidents in sport we must look at the highest profile case of all “Iron” Mike Tyson biting a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear off in a 1997 Heavyweight Championship bout. Tyson’s boxing license was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and he was fined $3 million plus legal costs. The revocation was not permanent and little more than a year later the commission voted to reinstate it. All these athletes received far sterner punishments for similar crimes.
But what if you were to set Suarez loose on the streets? If any of the above was to happen on the street they would all be facing a charge of assault causing harm or assault causing serious harm if any scars were present as a result. Both offences if found guilty carry maximum sentences of 5 and 7 years in prison respectively.
To add to my view that Suarez’s punishment was adequate, if not lenient, we must consider American Criminal Law, more specifically the habitual law or three strikes rule as it is commonly known. This is in use in 24 states and the offender is commonly known as a persistent offender – three times is pretty persistent.
The first incident was the 20th of November 2010, Suárez bit PSV’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder during a 0–0 draw. Ajax suspended him for two games and fined him an undisclosed amount which the club said they would donate to a “good cause” and on 21st April 2013, the second incident occurred during a 2–2 draw with Chelsea in a Premier League game at Anfield, Suárez bit Branislav Ivanović on the arm. The habitual law was introduced to try and clamp down on re-offenders; typically a person who has been convicted of a serious or violent crime for the third time would be sentenced to a minimal of 25 years in prison. As this is the third time that Suarez has been found guilty of the same crime, he should consider himself lucky it is not a life time ban.
The only argument one could have in his favour would be the consistency of FIFA’s punishment policy. For example Juan Zuniga’s tackle on the Brazilian golden boy Neymar; this was late, high and had all the hallmarks of dangerous play. Neymar in a press interview while fighting back the tears stated that he was a couple inches away from being paralysed for the rest of his life. Zuniga received a yellow card for this challenge.
In the Suarez incident Chiellini got back up and was able to continue in the game, there is no correlation between the damage done and the punishment received. We can argue that his punishment was harsh or fair but we cannot argue that the man has talent.
Barca who have officially made room and raised capital for Suarez by the sale of Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal and also Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea must now consider what they are going to do to keep him on the straight and narrow. There are rumours circulating that Barca have included a clause in his contract which states that should he be involved in another biting incident, his reported £200,000 per week wage would be reduced by 30%. Again you must be thinking poor Luis – imagine having to survive off £140,000 per week !
During his Liverpool career Suarez was suspended for 18 games. This doesn’t sound like much until you consider that the average games per season for a Premier league first team regular is 24.5.
Suarez has had other disciplinary issues including handball incidents in the World Cup and racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United in their 1-1 draw in October 2011. Suarez’s rule-breaking can be traced back to when he was just 16 years old and head-butted a referee for sending him off.
We all know he can be trouble, but Barca are no saints. They have been found guilty of breaching FIFA transfer/fair play regulations. If we consider how a player banned from all footballing activity and a club banned from purchasing players have managed to slide this past FIFA, it is actually relatively simple, Barca have had their transfer embargo put on hold pending an appeal and although Suarez is banned from all footballing activity EU Law doesn’t allow any embargos or tariffs between Union States so once it is purely a business deal it is legitimate.
The rich get richer eh?
Alex Kirwan, Pundit Arena.