Luis Suarez ban: Liverpool could become involved in extraordinary legal battle after Fifa imposes four-month suspension for World Cup bite

The Uruguay striker is set to miss nine Premier League matches and three Champions League games for Liverpool

Luis Suarez was at the centre of an extraordinary legal battle as Fifa gave him an unprecedented four-month ban from “all  football-related activities” following his bite on Giorgio Chiellini.

The Uruguay Football Federation will appeal against the ban but Liverpool are taking legal advice to establish, among other things, whether they also have grounds to challenge it.

Liverpool, who have previously been steadfastly supportive of the controversial striker, following the announcement kept some public distance from the incident, taking counsel and gathering information before commenting further.

Suarez was banned for nine competitive international matches and fined £66,000 by Fifa’s disciplinary committee as well as being given the four-month ban, which will prevent him from playing, training or even entering a football stadium. This would rule him out of the first nine Premier League matches of next season, as well as the first three Champions League group games, but it would not prevent him from being transferred to another club.

Video: Fifa punishes Suarez following his bite on Chiellini

More immediately, Suarez is out of Uruguay’s last-16 match against Colombia at the Maracana Stadium on Saturday, as well as the rest of the World Cup. Suarez is banned from matches and even from the Uruguay hotel so cannot be with his team-mates ahead of the game. Suarez was said on Thursday night to be heading back to Montevideo to be with his family. The Uruguay federation will appeal, although that appeal will have no “suspensive effect” on his ban. It means he misses the Colombia game no matter what.

“We are preparing our appeal now, we have three days to do it,” said the federation’s president Wilmar Valdez. “It is an excessive decision and there was not enough evidence and I have seen more aggressive incidents recently. It is a severe punishment. I don’t know exactly which arguments they used but it is a tough punishment for Suarez. It’s feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup.”

 

Uruguay are entitled to appeal in accordance with Article 119 of Fifa’s disciplinary code, which states that “anyone who has been a party to the proceedings before the first instance and has a legally protected interest justifying amendment or cancellation of the decision may lodge an appeal with the Appeal Committee.”

Liverpool were initially thought unable to appeal, as they have not been party to the proceedings but they could argue that they have a “legally protected interest” given that Suarez’s ban would affect them.

Read more: What Liverpool matches will Suarez miss?
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The possibility was even raised last night of an appeal via the Football Association, given that Article 119.2 of the disciplinary code states that “associations may appeal against decisions sanctioning their players, officials or members” with written permission of the person concerned. Liverpool may be able to argue that Suarez is registered with the English FA, even though he plays for Uruguay. As a last resort, the Premier League club could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Liverpool’s public response was limited to a short statement from chief executive officer Ian Ayre: “Liverpool Football Club will wait until we have seen and had time to review the Fifa Disciplinary Committee report before making any further comment.”

A woman takes a photo next to an advertisement featuring Uruguay's Luis Suarez, mocking the biting incident A woman takes a photo next to an advertisement featuring Uruguay's Luis Suarez, mocking the biting incident  

The club are still involved in an information-gathering exercise, taking specialist advice as well as talking to Fifa, the Uruguayan federation and probably Suarez himself before taking any decisions or making any more public pronouncements. The sense at Anfield was that the club are keen to manage expectations, to put the club first and, crucially, to act in a calm and measured and way over an issue from which they have largely been at arm’s length.

Ayre does have a good relationship with Suarez and his agent Pere Guardiola. Suarez has signed two contract extensions since Ayre has been in charge at Anfield.

Uruguay are steadfast behind Suarez. The team captain Diego Lugano said that he was outraged at the treatment of the player whose two goals against England helped Uruguay to qualify from Group D.

“Indignation, impotence, I think this is what we are all feeling,” Lugano wrote on Twitter. “We would all like a more just world but, quite simply, that world doesn’t exist. Those who set the rules set the rules, and the strong are the strong. They don’t judge us by the same rules.

“An embrace for Luis, who will always raise himself, and principally the family who always suffers most in these situations, that they continue to feel proud of him, it is deserved. As regards ourselves, nothing will deter us. We will keep going forward with humility, unity, commitment, recognition of errors and with our head always held high.”

If Saurez bit Chiellini it will be his third such transgression If Saurez bit Chiellini it will be his third such transgression  

Adidas, one of Suarez’s principal sponsors, said they “fully support” Fifa’s decision and that they would remind Suarez of his responsibilities. “We have no plan to use Suarez for any additional marketing activities during the 2014 Fifa World Cup,” the company added.

Claudio Sulser, who chaired the disciplinary committee, said that Suarez’s behaviour was unacceptable especially given the attention on him.

“Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field,” said Sulser, a former Switzerland striker who played in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The disciplinary committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suarez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the code. The decision comes into force as soon it is communicated.”

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