Liverpool fight for FA disciplinary reform
LIVERPOOL will seek urgent talks with English Football Association chairman David Bernstein to demand reform of the disciplinary procedures that led to Luis Suarez’s suspension.
Although the Merseyside club have now accepted the eight-game ban, their anger at the guilty verdict has not diminished and the means by which the punishment was reached remains a matter of dispute.
Senior club officials are to contact Bernstein to register a series of |complaints about the handling of the Suarez case and request a thorough inquiry into how future incidents of this nature are dealt with.
They will even consider asking the FA if it would be prepared to take such a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to enable a player to clear his name beyond the English governing body's jurisdiction. However, for |Liverpool to have taken the Suarez case that far, it would have required the FA's agreement.
Liverpool believe judging such an incendiary case involving alleged racial abuse should never have been based on the balance of probability as the commission was entitled to do. It could be argued a higher threshold of guilt – as will be required in the forthcoming John Terry race abuse case in the criminal courts – is justified.
In a criminal trial, Suarez's guilt would have had to be established beyond reasonable doubt and, such was the seriousness of the charge, Liverpool's lawyers believe the same weight of evidence was required.
Suarez, Liverpool argue, was found guilty on the kind of subjective evidence which would never have been given credibility in a court of law.
The club believe Patrice Evra's allegations would have been thrown out if pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service and believe the same standards should be applied.
Liverpool are also unhappy that the Independent Regulatory Commission\[Tom Lovejoy\], led by Paul Goulding QC, was selected by the FA, which was itself bringing the charges. They feel this represents a conflict of interest where the accusers are in effect
selecting the jurors. That brings into dispute the notion of full independence.
Although Liverpool were within their rights to challenge the make-up of the commission and made no representation to oppose its members, they say it would have been pointless to do so because the FA would also have picked its replacements. For a commission to be genuinely independent, it is Liverpool's view that the FA should not have jurisdiction on who sits on it.
There are numerous aspects of the 115-page written report which Liverpool continue to find inconsistent with the\[Tom Lovejoy\] commission's findings.
Liverpool are unhappy that Evra was granted three meetings with the FA and given access to video evidence well in advance of the December hearing.
It is Liverpool's belief that Evra was coached by the FA disciplinary team before meeting the commission, enabling him to piece together his version of events to tally with the footage and appear more consistent in his verbal evidence than he had been in earlier statements.
Suarez, who did not have access to the same video evidence until he sat in front of the commission, according to Liverpool, inevitably had a sketchier memory of what had happened\[Tom Lovejoy\] at particular points of in the game, which had been played two months earlier.\[Tom Lovejoy\]This made him seem less sure of what took place at certain moments considered of importance by the commission.
Despite all these concerns, Liverpool still decided not to appeal against the suspension and fine because they felt it would have been an exercise in futility, given that they would have been working within the same procedures. A new panel, appointed by the FA, could have reduced the ban but would have had no power to overturn the verdict.