Liverpool will not sell Mario Balotelli next month, despite the player compounding a poor start to his Anfield career by sending the social media message, containing an anti-Semitic stereotype, which saw him handed a Football Association misconduct charge tonight.
The club protected itself against the striker’s habit of courting controversy by having several stringent clauses written into his contract in August, protecting them against errant behaviour on his part. But Liverpool have no intention of cutting their losses on their £16m investment – even though manager Brendan Rodgers, whose side face Sunderland at Anfield today, has also said that it is unclear when he will return from a groin injury which has kept the forward out for the past four games. Balotelli is yet to score for Liverpool in the Premier League.
The 24-year-old is likely to plead not guilty to the FA charge – with the support of his club – which relates to a message described as “offensive” by the Jewish Leadership Council. The controversy will be deeply frustrating to a club who have worked hard to promote diversity after the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra controversy in 2011 – appointing a social inclusion officer and even issuing staff with a list of unacceptable language to be used last year.
Liverpool said that Balotelli will go through the necessary process to answer the charge that he breached Rule E3 of the FA regulations, by retransmitting an Instagram image depicting the computer game character Super Mario alongside a racial stereotype and anti-Semitic remark:“Jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.” A Liverpool spokesman said: “We acknowledge the FA’s decision and the player will work through the process to answer the charge.”
That suggests that Balotelli will not follow Rio Ferdinand’s course of action, in October, when he declined to attend an FA hearing when he faced a similar charge, relating to his derogatory “sket” comment on Twitter, which he claimed was meant in fun. Ferdinand’s decision effectively not to acknowledge the disciplinary process went down particularly badly with the three-man commission that heard his case. That commission also took his previous conduct into account, including the episode in which he referred to Ashley Cole as “choc ice” on Twitter – resulting in what was a surprisingly high tariff of a three-match ban and £25,000 fine. With no such precedent for Balotelli, a more likely outcome in his case would be a fine.
Uefa has added to Liverpool’s headaches by stating on Friday that they want to undertake further investigations into the Anfield outfit, among seven clubs, for possible breaches of Financial Fair Play rules. Roma, Internazionale, Monaco and Sporting Lisbon are also being submitted to additional scrutiny.
Sports lawyer and FFP specialist Daniel Geey, of Field Fisher Waterhouse, said the governing body’s investigatory chamber might now examine revenue and outgoings for the financial year 2013-14, in an attempt to establish whether losses have exceeded the accumulative €45m allowable in the three years leading up to FFP. Liverpool have always insisted they have complied with owners Fenway Sports Group, who are staunch supporters of FFP.
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