Liverpool launched a stinging attack on the Football Association last night after an independent FA commission found Luis Suarez guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra and banned the Uruguayan striker for eight games.
In a hard-hitting statement released in the wake of the ruling by a three-man commission, Liverpool made a set of claims that they believed showed that the judgement of the three-man commission, and conduct of the FA, was flawed. It amounted to one of the most strident attacks on the governing body by a member club in recent years and puts the two organisations at loggerheads.
In a series of criticisms – some aimed at the three-man commission of Paul Goulding QC, Denis Smith and Brian Jones – the club claimed that Suarez's fate had effectively been decided before he was even first interviewed about the events of the home game against Manchester United on 15 October.
The club said: "The FA was determined to bring charges against Luis Suarez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November."
Liverpool, whose player was also fined £40,000, made a number of claims against Evra himself, including a significant attack on the player's own integrity. The club said: "It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player [Evra] was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations."
Liverpool went on to divulge much of the detail from the hearing that the FA has not yet made public, including an admission from Evra that he himself abused Suarez during their confrontation at Anfield.
Liverpool said: "We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks to an opponent after he admitted himself in his evidence to insulting Luis Suarez in Spanish in the most objectionable of terms. Luis, to his credit, actually told the FA he had not heard the insult."
It leaves the FA in conflict with Liverpool, and an appeal against the verdict from the club seemingly inevitable. Goulding, who is the head of the three-man independent regulatory commission, is due to present his written reasons for the judgment to the club in the next few days.
Once Suarez and Liverpool have received Goulding's written reasons – which will also be made public – they have 14 calendar days to launch an appeal. Suarez can play for Liverpool up to the conclusion of the appeal process. There is the possibility that the length of the ban could be increased by the appeals board.
Describing themselves as "surprised and disappointed" by the commission's judgment, Liverpool set about attacking aspects of the hearing. The club said that Evra and the FA both said that they did not believe Suarez was a "racist" at the start of the hearing.
Liverpool said: "We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no one else on the field of play – including Evra's own Manchester United team-mates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken.
"LFC considers racism in any form to be unacceptable – without compromise. It is our strong held belief, having gone over the facts of the case, that Luis Suarez did not commit any racist act. It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations.
"It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said, 'I don't think that Luis Suarez is racist'. The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suarez was not racist."
Although it has never been confirmed officially, the key to the case is understood to be whether Suarez's use of the word "negrito" was intended to be racially abusive. It is this nuance that has been part of the three-man commission's deliberations which began last week. Suarez, Evra and Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish gave evidence to the commission.
The club also cited Suarez's "mixed race" heritage and the fact that his "grandfather was black" in their statement, evidently a key part of his defence in the hearing. The club said: "He has been personally involved since the 2010 World Cup in a charitable project which uses sport to encourage solidarity amongst people of different backgrounds, with the central theme that the colour of a person's skin does not matter; they can all play together as a team
"He has played with black players and mixed with their families whilst with the Uruguay national side and was captain at Ajax Amsterdam of a team with a proud multi-cultural profile, many of whom became good friends.
"It seems incredible to us that a player of mixed heritage should be accused and found guilty in the way he has based on the evidence presented. We do not recognise the way in which Luis Suarez has been characterised."
Last night Manchester United refused to comment on either the charges against Suarez or the allegations against Evra from Liverpool. The FA is still awaiting the Crown Prosecution Service's decision as to whether they will charge Chelsea's John Terry over allegations that he racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. These two cases represent the most complex and sensitive the governing body has had to deal with.
Liverpool said: "The club takes extremely seriously the fight against all forms of discrimination and has a long and successful track record in work relating to anti-racist activity and social inclusion. We remain committed to this ideal and equality for all, irrespective of a person's background.
"LFC considers racism in any form to be unacceptable – without compromise. It is our strong held belief, having gone over the facts of the case, that Luis Suarez did not commit any racist act. It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations."
Earlier the commission had announced that Suarez had "used insulting words towards Mr Evra during the match contrary to FA Rule E3 (1)" and that "the insulting words used by Mr Suarez included a reference to Mr Evra's colour within the meaning of Rule E3 (2)."
Lord Herman Ouseley, chairman of anti-racism body Kick It Out, said: "The FA has shown leadership and intent through what has clearly been a difficult and complex complaint to deal with."
Suarez said last night on Twitter: "Today is a very difficult and painful day for both me and my family. Thanks for all the support, I'll keep working!" On his Twitter account, Dalglish said: "Very disappointed with today's verdict. This is the time when Suarez needs our full support. Let's not let him walk alone."