James Lawton: This whole sorry mess – apology or not – will at least bring new levels of vigilance
Any complacency over racism has been swept away in weeks of angry debate
Liverpool still don't get it, not completely, but they have offered a degree of apology – and so has their player Luis Suarez. Given all that has gone before, all the churning self-interest displayed by one of the great clubs of Europe, the deadening sense that the issue was something less than fundamental to the good name of English football, we probably should be grateful for the concession.
It means that the door on at least one half of the racism controversy that erupted around Suarez and Chelsea and England captain John Terry can be closed with some measure of relief that an extremely valuable point – and precedent – has been achieved. While Liverpool still harbour criticism of the Football Association following the eight-game suspension of Suarez, after an independent regulatory panel decided he had racially abused Manchester United's Patrice Evra, the mood at Anfield has clearly become more placatory.
Though neither Suarez nor the club can apparently bring themselves to a direct apology to Evra, there is regret that "anyone" was offended and the club now acknowledge that their response to the crisis was rather less than perfect.
For football's Kick It Out anti-racism campaign there are certainly grounds to believe the whole fraught business has brought one huge bonus. It lies in the sense that any complacency that the problem here has long been resolved has been swept away in the weeks of angry debate.
If this is indeed true, Kick it Out may well conclude that a turning point came when Liverpool's players and their manager appeared in training tops emblazoned with the name of Suarez.
Kenny Dalglish has been intransigent in his belief that this was nothing more than a statement of support for a valued team-mate and friend but calmer judgement has, we have to believe, taken into account the widespread revulsion that came in its wake.
No doubt the Suarez-Evra collision has sorely taxed the disciplinary resources of the FA, but it is also true that among neutrals there is a powerful feeling that on this occasion at least the ruling authority turned its back on the easier options.
Its reward, it seems certain, will be new levels of vigilance by both match and club officials. Both Liverpool and Suarez have paid a damaging price for the player's belief that he could say what he wanted without any challenge to his interpretation of what consisted of inoffensive familiarity and what at least one recipient considered outright racial taunting.
This, as the disciplinary panel acknowledged, was a difficult case, demanding the most rigorous effort to get to the truth. Suarez's apology for the language he used, however partial it is, thus amounts to some considerable reward.
If the implications of remorse are not huge, there is recognition of the need in the future for a more decent use of language. So can we say this resolve has really been worth all the trouble and the strife? Yes, because it is more than a satisfactory result. It was always the whole point of the exercise.
Latest in Sport
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: Compare the Barcelona and Real Madrid players in El Clasico
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo
Tim Sherwood: The mavericks have always needed special handling – but Balotelli is not delivering his side of the bargain for Liverpool
Manchester United vs Chelsea: Modesty of Louis van Gaal makes nice contrast with his old pupil Jose Mourinho
Rio Ferdinand retirement: QPR defender announces he will end career next summer
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year