Liverpool were in a state of indignation last night after the Football Association charged their striker Luis Suarez with improper conduct over what appeared to be an indecent gesture towards Fulham fans on Monday night and also deemed the club guilty of failing to control its players during their 1-0 defeat.
Liverpool's manager, Kenny Dalglish, will be asked for his reaction at his weekly press conference today and it may be incendiary, given that Suarez is already facing an FA charge over alleged racist abuse towards Manchester United's Patrice Evra during the clubs' match at Anfield in October – another charge which Liverpool have rejected.
The FA's governance and regulation committee, which analysed images taken from Fulham's Putney End, have concluded that the Uruguayan did raise the middle finger of his left hand to home fans who had subjected him to abuse during the defeat. The additional decision to charge Liverpool with "failing to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion, following the dismissal of Jay Spearing", stems from the way in which the referee, Kevin Friend, was surrounded by Martin Skrtel, Charlie Adam, Craig Bellamy and Glen Johnson after Spearing's fateful 72nd-minute challenge on Moussa Dembele.
Suarez has until 4pm on Monday to decide how to respond to the charge and if convicted he could face a ban, though punishments in such cases have varied. Birmingham City's Stephen Carr was banned for one game for an obscene gesture directed at Aston Villa supporters last year, while Joey Barton – then at Manchester City – was merely fined £2,000 in 2006 for dropping his shorts to Everton fans. Raul Meireles and Emmanuel Frimpong have escaped any punishment for similar offences to Suarez. Wayne Rooney missed two games after hurling abuse into a television camera at West Ham last season.
Spearing is already facing a probable three-game ban and Liverpool can ill afford to be without Suarez even for one game, given his importance for the club. If he pleads guilty to the charge and apologises – as Carr did – he could miss Liverpool's visit to Aston Villa on Sunday week, with a match at Wigan Athletic following four days later.
Liverpool's position mirrors that of Birmingham who, after the incendiary match at Villa in which Carr made his gesture, were also fined £10,000 for failing to control their players. Four of them were booked in the wake of a penalty award during the match.
Dalglish, who requested a meeting with referees' head Mike Dean earlier this season after complaining of decisions repeatedly going against his side, is convinced that Premier League clubs' failure to contain Suarez is leading others to denigrate him. "I think people try and find it easy to criticise him because he is such a good player," he said last month. "Rather than wax lyrical about him, they try and find a fault that isn't really there."
A Liverpool spokesman said last night: "The club will take the appropriate time to properly review the documentation sent to us before making any comment."