The FA of England have released a 115 page report into the disciplinary proceedings taken against Luis Suárez following accusations of racial abuse directed at Patrice Evra, during the Liverpool v Manchester United match on 15 October.
The report presents a breakdown of an incident that is becoming a landmark case in dealing with player-on-player racial abuse.
Suárez was banned for 8 games and fined £40,000 (48K€) on December 20th. The report says that he called Evra “negro” seven times during the game at Anfield, with the evidence that the Liverpool player gave in relation to the confrontation with the Frenchman described as “inconsistent” and “unreliable”.
The commission set up by the FA to look into the case also revealed that Suárez said that he would not use the word “negro” on a football pitch in England in the future.
Liverpool reacted angrily to the verdict when it was announced two weeks ago, issuing a statement in which they referred to unfounded accusations that Evra had made in the past and described the full- back as “not credible”.
The Liverpool players wore T-shirts showing their support for Suárez before the game against Wigan on December 21st, the day after he received the ban, a gesture which was heavily criticised by many at the time, while manager Kenny Dalglish tweeted that fans should not let him walk alone.
Piara Powar, Executive Director of the FARE network commented on the release of the FA report:
“The Football Association’s published judgement from the Suárez – Evra incident is welcome. The FA have taken their time to initiate a process that appears to have been both fair in its implementation of football rules, and in accordance with the principles of British justice. As an international NGO we think the investigation and judgment sets the bar for governing bodies globally.
“Racial abuse between players on the field of play has been an unspoken taboo for too long, an area that has been unsatisfactorily dealt with by English football despite many cases over the past ten years.
“We would also call on Liverpool FC to think again about their public campaign to dispute the charges and contest the principles involved in the case. As a club with an international standing the vehemency of their campaign is unquestionably causing them reputational harm, and has lead to Liverpool fans to become involved in a backlash of hatred on web forums and other public arenas.”
The commission looked at a wide range of evidence from the match referee and TV footage.
They also received witness statements from a wide range of players and coaches, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United players Giggs, Valencia, Hernandez, Nani, and Anderson. From Liverpool, Manager Kenny Dalglish, winger Dirk Kuyt and Director of Football Damien Comolli also provided statements.
The commission set out a version of events that begun by Evra's own admission with the Frenchman starting the verbal exchange when he reacted angrily to a foul by Suárez.
Evra addressed Suárez with the phrase “Concha de tu hermana”, an obscene term referring to Suárez's sister but one which is said to be commonly used in Spanish as an exclamation. Although Suárez did not hear that remark, both players agreed Evra then said, “Why did you kick me?”
“Because you are black”
There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. Evra claimed that Suárez responded by saying: “Because you are black”. Suárez claimed he had replied: “It was a normal foul.”
In the next exchange detailed by the report, Evra said he responded by saying: “Say it to me again, I'm going to punch you.” And Suárez replied: “I don't speak to blacks.”
The third exchange alleged by Evra was that he said: “OK, now I think I'm going to punch you.” To which Suárez replied, “Dale, negro, negro, negro”, meaning “OK, blackie, blackie, blackie”. Suárez disputed this was the case and claimed that he only said “negro” once during his confrontation with Evra, which was when the United player was alleged to have said “Don't touch me South American”.
Suárez said that it was used in a way that was not intended to be racially offensive when he replied: “Por que, negro,” meaning “Why, black?”
Context of words
A large part of the debate around the case has focused on the use of the word “negro”.
Although it was accepted that “negro” could have a different meaning in Uruguay and Latin America in certain situations, the academic experts that the FA instructed to prepare a written report on the linguistic and cultural interpretations of the words “negro and negros” in Rioplatense Spanish, told the commission “that if Mr Suárez said the things that Mr Evra alleged, they would be considered racially offensive in Uruguay and other regions of Latin America”, not least because of the acrimonious context in which they occurred.