The Football Association may make an application to an independent regulatory commission to ban the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez for as many as seven games – more than double the three-game tariff for violent conduct, which the Uruguayan was charged with on Monday night.
The governing body is clear to pursue the 26-year-old retrospectively after referee Kevin Friend disclosed, as expected, that he had not seen Suarez make to bite Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield on Sunday and it will make a separate application to the panel, convened tomorrow, seeking a severe penalty.
There is no precedent in the English game since changes to rules, not applicable when Tottenham Hotspur’s Jermain Defoe bit West Ham United’s Javier Mascherano in October 2006, allowed the FA to punish retrospectively. A five-game ban – the statutory three-game ban plus an additional one-game or two-game “surcharge” – is possible. The seven-game suspension handed out to Suarez in Holland in 2010 for biting Otman Bakkal of PSV is one benchmark and the punishment may be nearer to that figure, possibly eight games.
It is understood Ivanovic’s skin was not broken when Suarez bit down at him, though the player did feel contact. Suarez tweeted that he had spoken to the Serbian on the telephone to apologise but it is understood Ivanovic remains disgruntled by the striker’s conduct and does not feel that he can forgive and forget.
Surrey Police were at Chelsea’s Cobham training base when the team returned from the 2-2 draw, secured for Liverpool by a late Suarez equaliser, and inspected the 29-year-old’s right arm before deciding that they would not be pressing criminal charges against Suarez. Neither will Merseyside Police.
Though some Liverpool fans will point to the fact that Defoe escaped without punishment after biting Mascherano’s arm – referee Steve Bennett booked both players – the FA was then working within far stronger Fifa constraints governing its capacity to take retrospective action. At that time there was no potential to dish out a stronger punishment when a referee’s action seemed insufficient.
The FA had been ready to implement the so-called Ben Thatcher rule – used when an “extraordinary” incident leads them to punish retrospectively – had Friend seen Sunday’s incident. The level of national indignation about the bite is likely to compel the tribunal to issue a punishment that will stretch well into the start of next season. Liverpool have only four games remaining in the current campaign. “The FA’s contention is that the standard punishment of three matches that would otherwise apply is clearly insufficient in these circumstances,” the FA said in a statement last night.
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said Suarez would not be sold as a result of the incident, having immediately fined the £120,000-a-week player – money which will go to the Hillsborough Families Support Group. Asked if the bite would have any bearing on Suarez’s Liverpool future, Ayre said: “Not at all. It affects his future in the sense that we have to work with him on his discipline – but Luis is a very important player to the club. He’s a very popular player with his team-mates.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association said Suarez will be offered anger-management counselling.