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.Reuse content