Even if your first actions on picking up this newspaper are to tear out the final 16 pages (after reading this column, of course), you would have found it difficult to escape the news of Uruguay and Liverpool’s star player Luis Suarez biting an opponent for the third time in his career. His punishment – a nine-match ban plus a four-month suspension from “any footballing activity” – will be seen by Uruguay supporters as too harsh, Liverpool fans as unfair, and most others as too lenient.
I admit, I was halfway down the “all footballers are terrible” road until I read yesterday’s piece by our football correspondent Glenn Moore, who reminded me that the England rugby player Dylan Hartley has repeatedly been banned for foul play, including eye gouging, which presents a far more significant threat of permanent damage than nibbling a shoulder, and yet still took to the field last weekend.
Putting sport aside, there are many repeat offenders in society that we should be more wary of – violent criminals, sex offenders, murderers… The answer in some cases may be to lock them up and throw away the key. But should freedom not be dependent on rehabilitation as well? Clearly, the more heinous the crime, the longer it takes to be “healed”.
And this is what is most disappointing with Fifa’s punishment. While a lengthy ban is needed in order to send a message and deter others from similar actions, there was no mention of Suarez’s return being conditional on him receiving psychological help.
Without addressing the causes, culprits – in life as in sport – will be prone to repeat offences, no matter how long the sentence.