Luis Suarez ban: Will this prove to be breaking point in way that football is run?

Fifa runs risk of alienating clubs with the sort of suspension they've handed to Liverpool striker Luis Suarez

We are in murky, uncharted waters. The case of Luis Suarez is unprecedented, unpredictable and potentially unlimited in its scope. Already an international incident, it is the cause célèbre which could be the catalyst for a radical realignment of world football.

The tenor of the debate is set. Suarez’s punishment is either the iniquitous demonisation of a nation’s favourite son, or the overdue imposition of a code of conduct on a game which lacks an ethical dimension.

Anger and rancour encourage simplistic judgements, and the devil, as always, is in the detail. This signals an implicit threat to the pseudo-statesmen who run the global game for their own convenience, on behalf of Fifa, an institution accustomed to the imposition of absolute power.

Read more: What Liverpool matches will Suarez miss?
Chiellini pokes fun at Suarez with help of a maid
Will ban hinder move to Barcelona or Real Madrid?

They subjugate host nations, accumulate vast wealth and dispense summary justice. They are not the only hypocrites annexing the moral high ground, but the ramifications of banning the Uruguayan for four months, for his latest episode of self-destructive behaviour, may not have been fully thought through.

Fifa was at pains to point out, in a revealingly urgent supplementary statement on the disciplinary process, that his suspension from “any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other)” did not preclude Suarez’s involvement in a summer transfer.

The incident involving Suarez The incident involving Suarez  

That partially neutralised a political and legal minefield, in addressing perceptions it had potentially acted against Liverpool’s commercial interests, but the threat of the issue being dragged through the courts, and mutating into a concerted challenge against assumptions of Fifa’s omnipotence, is real.

With sources speaking of a “lynching” by the “Fifa mafia”, and a social media campaign proclaiming “We are all #Suarez!”, realpolitik made it inevitable that Uruguayan Sports Minister, Liliam Kechichian, condemned his “excessive punishment” before briefing President Jose Mujica on the options.

Mujica was in hawkish mood. Even before the verdict was announced, he had defended Suarez in a national radio address. “We didn’t choose him to be a philosopher or a mechanic,” he said, “and neither to have good manners. He’s an excellent player.”

The immediate appeal by the Uruguayan FA was a foregone conclusion. In the words of its president Wilmar Valdez: “It feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup.” Speculation that the team would refuse to turn up for tomorrow’s match against Colombia seems far-fetched, but it indicates the level of paranoia and dissension.

Italy's Giorgio Chiellini (L) claims he was bitten by Uruguay's Luis Suarez (R) during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group D preliminary round match between Italy and Uruguay at the Estadio Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil Italy's Giorgio Chiellini (L) claims he was bitten by Uruguay's Luis Suarez (R) during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group D preliminary round match between Italy and Uruguay at the Estadio Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil  

Domestically, Liverpool, Suarez’s principal employers, have no such right of appeal. Under football’s arcane system, they are bound by regulations to accept the legitimacy of decisions taken by national or international governing bodies.

That would seem to offend the laws of natural justice, since through no fault of their own they will be denied the services of their most valuable player for the first 13 matches of next season. Suarez will be prevented from training, and attending games. Yet he will still expect to be paid.

They are keeping their own counsel, in the short term at least, and appear determined not to repeat the mistake of revelling in his supposed martyrdom. The club have been isolated from the process by the Uruguayans, and the relationship between Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director, and Pere Guardiola, Suarez’s agent, will be critical.

Pragmatism is likely, because everyone in football is conditioned to act in self-interest. Although the club could have a case for taking action against Suarez for breach of contract, expect them to take a measured view. He remains a prized commodity, though the potential impact of the punishment on any transfer fee, while difficult to quantify, may demand redress.

“It will be interesting to see what action the club take,” said Glenn Hayes, employment partner at the law firm Irwin Mitchell. “Suarez may not have been directly representing his employer at the World Cup, but the potential reputational and financial damage is significant.”

Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder in which he accused Luis Suarez of biting him Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder in which he accused Luis Suarez of biting him  

Legal action against Fifa cannot be ruled out, and the broader issue, of increasing resentment at the implications and impositions involved in international football, festers. The Suarez situation will inflame opinions, and renew suggestions that Fifa’s autocracy must be contested.

Leading clubs are mollified to an extent by lucrative domestic and Champions League television deals. But this compromises their right to be in control of their employees. Any challenge to the status quo, through the courts, has huge implications.

A breakaway Super League, long mooted, is possible because, despite their pretensions, bodies such as Uefa and Fifa would ultimately be powerless to sanction a well-funded, corporately supported, rebel initiative. It would spell the end of the World Cup in its current form.

Fifa may be institutionally incapable of dealing with a prevailing culture of greed, corruption and triumphalism, but perceptions of vulnerability will not be lost on Sepp Blatter, who refused to comment on the Suarez situation. Fifa may dispense solutions to football’s ills, but it is the game’s biggest problem.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system