Suarez to give testimony at Evra 'racism' hearing today
Luis Suarez is expected to appear today in front of the Football Association's disciplinary commission to offer his account of the clash with Manchester United's Patrice Evra at Anfield in October which led to the Liverpool striker being charged with issuing racist abuse at the Frenchman.
The case opened yesterday, with legal teams on behalf of Suarez and Liverpool and Evra and United making their opening submissions to a panel of four experts, including one specialist QC. Both players are expected to offer testimony in an attempt to establish the chain of events leading up to Evra making a formal complaint to referee Andre Marriner after the 1-1 draw, with Suarez due to appear today.
It is thought the case's complexity means it will last at least two days, and there remains no timescale on the panel delivering its verdict. Suarez has categorically denied abusing Evra, who alleges the 24-year-old striker used a racist term "at least 10 times" during the fractious fixture.
The former Ajax striker has admitted to media in his homeland, though, that he used a word "his team-mates call him" and it is believed Suarez's defence centres on the fact that, in Uruguay and throughout much of South America, a variety of terms related to colour are used in colloquial idiom. The word negrito, though, is not thought to have formed part of the discussion.
Should Suarez be found guilty, the severity of his potential punishment is unclear, thanks to a lack of precedents. In the only comparable case, the then Newcastle player Emre Belozoglu was cleared by an FA panel of using a racist term towards Joseph Yobo and Joelon Lescott during a 3-0 defeat at Everton in February 2007.
Suarez has been preparing the defence he will offer the FA's panel since he was issued with the charge of using "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour" which included "a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race" of the France international on 23 November. Indeed, though the Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, has complained that the charge has almost taken long enough to hear that it warrants "a testimonial", the FA was sufficiently conscious of the sensitivity of the issue to grant the Uruguayan more time to construct a case.
Liverpool have been unwavering in their support of the player, tasking club secretary Zoe Ward – who previously worked as a sports law specialist with Harrogate-based McCormicks Solicitors – with helping to build his response to the charge, while Suarez himself has sought the help of the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF), who requested the help of the country's embassy in London.
There remains some concern among the club's hierarchy over the potential consequences of a guilty verdict, regardless of the length of his ban or the cost of his fine from the FA, with Liverpool's American owners conscious that supporting a player convicted of such an offence would attract considerable public opprobrium.
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