What's the difference between Luis Suarez, ex-BBC Mark Thompson and a rabid Alsatian?

This radio debate on the Luis Suarez bite scandal really gave me something to chew on


I have been called many things in my life, but to be introduced as "the voice of reason", as I was by a radio presenter at the weekend, was a something of a new experience. I had been asked on to the station, a favourite with the taxi drivers of London, to justify my opinion that Luis Suarez had been harshly treated with his 10-match suspension for biting an opposition player.

My point was that the punishment was more reflective of the reaction to the incident than of the attack itself. The combative and eloquent host, James Max, countered this with the proposition that there's one rule for the rich and famous (Suarez) and another for the ordinary person (him, for example). "If I went up to my producer and bit him on the arm," he said, "I'd be sacked immediately and I'd probably be up for GBH."

A fair point, you may say. But no. There is a relevant precedent which helps rebut his assertion. Sharp-eyed viewers of the most recent edition of Have I Got News For You will have noticed, in the odd-one-out round about biting controversies from recent history, a picture of Mark Thompson, the former Director-General of the BBC and now chief executive of The New York Times. Unfortunately, it was not fully explained why Mr Thompson was in the company of such orthodontic assailants as Suarez and a rabid Alsatian.

It is a little-known, and not terribly important, story, but in the context of the fuss attending the Liverpool striker, it bears repeating. It was back in 1988, when Mr Thompson was editor of the Nine O'Clock News. This is what his victim said when the tale emerged 17 years later: "Before I could say a word, he suddenly turned, snarled, and sank his teeth into my left upper arm (leaving marks through the shirt, but not drawing blood). It hurt. I pulled my arm out of his jaws, like a stick out of the jaws of a Labrador."

Blimey. This could be viewed as rather unusual behaviour even in the most robust of newsrooms, never mind the more gentlemanly environs of the Beeb. Mr Thompson was successful in playing down its significance. A BBC spokesman said it had been "high jinks" and "horseplay". Mr Thompson had apologised at the time, and it certainly didn't have a damaging effect on his career. However, this was 25 years ago, predating Twitter and Facebook, and long before word of mouth would spread like a forest fire. And, of course, there wasn't quite the same scrutiny on workplace behaviour in those days.

If Mr Thompson went down tomorrow to The New York Times newsroom and sunk his fangs into the tricep of a hapless hack, it would indeed, as James Max asserts, be a serious disciplinary issue, on which everyone up to and including President Obama would doubtless have to pronounce. But I think Suarez's punishment was severe because he was rich and famous, and he is unlucky to have transgressed in an era when perspective has been lost, and when everyone has an opinion, and insists that it is heard. Mainly on radio talk shows, I can hear you say...

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

Calypso Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Would you fork out to spend time on Sting's Tuscan estate?  

Happy to pay for the privilege of picking olives? Then Sting might have a job for you...

John Walsh
Clockwise from top: Zafran Ramzan, Razwan Razaq (main picture), Adil Hussain, Umar Razaq and Mohsin Khan were sentenced for grooming teenage girls for sex in 2010.  

Nothing can make up for the trauma of Rotherham's abused young girls, but many more heads must roll

Jane Merrick
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis