James Lawton: Suarez row has made clear to all where line of decency is drawn

Liverpool appear to have been blinded by contempt that a United player made this claim

Now that the Suarez decision has been explained with a force and a logic that should convince anyone inhabiting a set of values that owe more to decent grown-up behaviour than half-baked tribal loyalty, it can only be hoped that Liverpool Football Club and their iconic manager, Kenny Dalglish, have the wit to stop embarrassing themselves.

This will require a few qualities that have not exactly been flying out of the Anfield woodwork in recent weeks.

An intelligent understanding of the world we live in, including the prejudice that stills stalks the streets of our cities with sometimes appalling consequences, would be one starting point.

Another is the acceptance that from time to time you need to reflect upon your actions through something more than the prism of self-interest.

In this case it would have required Liverpool FC to understand that if Luis Suarez is not a racist – a belief accepted by his accuser, Patrice Evra – the crime he was charged with is the first ugly resort of those who are.

The independent panel, led by a QC and containing an ex-player and manager with a reputation for a hard-nosed understanding of the trade he pursued with notably rugged distinction, was never likely to expose itself to the charge of a serious miscarriage of justice.

Certainly, the 115-page account of the hearing, and the basis of their decision, provides more than enough reassurance that this was indeed the case. It also answered, simply but witheringly, the question Dalglish asked – with offensive disingenuousness – around about the time he was approving the wearing of Suarez T-shirts before the match that followed the player's eight-match sentence for racially abusing Evra.

"It would be helpful to everyone," said Dalglish, "if someone gave us guidelines about what you can and cannot say."

The verdict and report of an independent regulatory panel has at least provided half the answer to Daglish's threshing in an apparently unformed moral landscape.

You cannot make seven references to the colour of an opponent's skin in a situation which the panel – and any casual TV viewer – inevitably concluded was "acrimonious" and escape the sure-fire belief that you are indulging in racial abuse and provocation.

You cannot do what Suarez did – as proved by video evidence and confirmed by linguistic expertise, including a knowledge of the nuances of references to race in the player's native Uruguay – and get away with some implausible argument that you were innocent of the charges against you. Not when you have been found, irrefutably, to have said, without the interruption of any other word, "black, black, black..."

We do not yet know whether Liverpool will go ahead with an appeal after their initially emphatic reaction to the verdict – and risk further punishment of the player, surely a certainty given the ruling that two further offences of this nature could lead to Suarez's permanent banning from English football.

What we should be able to believe is that all of English football, or at least those parts of it which shared Dalglish's confusion about the difference between right and wrong, are now utterly clear about what is unacceptable.

Not the least disturbing aspect of the Suarez affair – and the one that now hangs over the future of Chelsea and England captain John Terry – has been the volume and the nature of much of the reaction. Much of it, you had to conclude, was fuelled by thinking implicit in Dalglish's question. Could someone explain to adult professionals quite how they conform to the rules of the society in which they find themselves? How pathetic that would sound on the lips of the parent of an errant child, one oblivious to the feelings of anyone but itself and armed with the belief that nothing mattered in life but an individual's own instincts on how to behave.

Hopefully, the water that became so muddied will clear somewhat with the detailed report of the proceedings. Charges that Liverpool where somehow victims of a conspiracy worked by the sinister tentacles of Manchester United will maybe finish up where they started – in the rubbish bin of hysterical victimhood.

That one of the most prestigious clubs in English football, which has contributed so much to the idea that a football team might just be the perfect expression of a community's collective pride, should plunge into such a ludicrous reaction was all the more depressing.

But then, who knows, a line might well have been drawn. If Suarez has been given severe punishment, who among those who draw such warmth from the deeds of great Liverpool players like Dalglish could countenance the alternative? We should be quite clear about what this would have entailed. Most of all, it would have been the acceptance that each player in the world's most cosmopolitan football league could bring his own moral compass each time he went out on the field.

It is to the great credit of the Football Association, which recently has not been consistently applauded for the strength of its resolve to put morality before self-interest, that it has insisted that this just cannot be so.

Not if English football – which by and large is streets ahead of so many rivals, including those of large swathes of Europe – is to clear up the last remnants of the kind of racial prejudice once commonly experienced by black footballers like Mark Walters and John Barnes.

Luis Suarez has made other marks on English football. He is a player of thrilling skill and invention. He is widely cherished by Liverpool fans, and any others who put a high value on outstanding ability, and this is surely the foundation of his success as long as he stays here. It is something that he and his supporters must place alongside another reality that has been, we can be much more confident now, established beyond reasonable contradiction.

It is that through his actions no one need any longer be confused about the whereabouts of one line which in all decency cannot be crossed.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital