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Luis Suárez racial abuse incident

After an incident which occurred on 15 October 2011 during a game of association football between fierce rivals Liverpool F.C. and Manchester United, Liverpool's Luis Suárez was charged with, and found guilty of, using "insulting words with a reference to Mr Evra's colour" to Manchester United's Patrice Evra by an FA commission.[1] Suarez was fined £40,000 and banned for eight games.

The incident was widely reported in the British media for months due to its controversial nature and the response of Liverpool FC and their manager Kenny Dalglish.



Liverpool F.C. signed Luis Suárez for a club record fee of £22.8m in January 2011,[2] while he was serving a ban in Netherlands for biting PSV Eindhoven player Otman Bakkal during a match on 20 November 2010.[3] The Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf branded Suárez the "Cannibal of Ajax".[4][5] The KNVB increased Suárez's suspension to seven league matches.[6]

Manchester United F.C. signed Patrice Evra in January 2006 for a fee of £5.5m.[7] In March 2006, it was reported that Liverpool defender Steve Finnan had racially abused Evra in the match that had taken place between the two clubs on January 22.[8] The abuse claims surfaced from two deaf television viewers lodging a police complaint. The viewers claimed to have lip-read Finnan abusing Evra during the televised match.[9] Finnan denied the charge and, after an investigation, The Football Association (FA) decided against charging the player.[10]

Prior to the start of the 2008–09 season, on 18 July 2008, Evra was charged with four separate counts of improper conduct by the FA.[11] The charges were related to an incident that occurred during the 2007–08 season when Evra had an altercation with a Chelsea groundsman during a warm-down following a match on 26 April. The defender denied the charges and was supported by several members of the club’s staff who commented that the player was racially abused by the groundsman prior to the confrontation.[12] On 18 November 2008, the hearing date for the charges was set for 5 December. On the date of the hearing, Evra was handed a four-match ban – due to start on 22 December 2008 – and a £15,000 fine after he was found guilty of improper conduct by the FA.[13]

According to the Guardian newspaper, Liverpool and their lawyers used these incidents to try and negate Evra's claims, claiming he was "not credible" and that he likes to "play the race card",[14] though the latter was denied by Sean O'Sullivan in an article in the Republik of Mancunia.[15]

Incident and immediate reactionEdit

During the game, with the score at 0–0, Suárez was being marked by Evra at a corner in the 62nd minute. It was at this point that the incident began.[16] According to the FA report, Suárez fouled Evra in the 58th minute of the game. In the 63rd minute, Evra challenged Suárez about the foul and used an offensive phrase that did not have any racial element and which Suárez did not hear. An argument ensued.

In an interview with French television station Canal+ after the game, Evra accused Suárez of racially abusing him during the confrontation. Evra initially told Canal+ that Suárez had used an abusive racial term “at least ten times”, although he later retracted this claim, and the Football Association (FA) opened up an investigation into the incident.[17] Suárez wrote on his Twitter and Facebook pages that he was upset by the accusation and denied the claims.[18] On 16 November, the FA announced it would charge Suárez with "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour contrary to FA rules", including "a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra." Liverpool later released a statement announcing Suárez would plead not guilty, adding that they would "remain fully supportive" of him.[19]

Liverpool and Suárez reaction to banEdit

On 20 December, the FA concluded a seven-day hearing, finding Suarez guilty "on the balance of probabilities" of using "insulting words including a reference to Mr. Evra's colour" and handing Suárez an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine. The FA also made it clear in its summary that "it did not contend that Mr Suarez acted as he did because he is a racist. Mr Evra said in his evidence that he did not think Mr Suárez is a racist".[20][21]

Following the FA's ruling, Liverpool issued a statement which claimed the club was "very surprised and disappointed" at the ban, highlighted that the player was not accused of being racist, and cited Suárez's mixed race family background, as well as his involvement with multicultural projects.[22] They also said: "We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone. No-one else on the field of play - including Evra's own Manchester United team mates and all the match officials - heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken. Nothing we have heard in the course of the hearing has changed our view that Luis Suárez is innocent of the charges brought against him and we will provide Luis with whatever support he now needs to clear his name".[23]

The club was heavily criticised in some sections of the media for questioning the moral integrity of the FA, having also claimed during their statement that "the FA was determined to bring charges... even before interviewing [Suárez] at the beginning of November",[24] although the displinary panel overseeing the investigation, which comprised Paul Goulding QC, Brian Jones, the chairman of the Sheffield & Hallam FA, and the former Stoke City player and Sunderland manager Denis Smith, was independent of the FA.[25] The FA was later called to defend the "extraordinarily high conviction rates" of its disciplinary system, primarily due to the guilty verdict against Suarez, which it did on 6 January 2012.[26]

Following the verdict, Suárez received support from a number of colleagues who believed it to be unjust.[27][28][29] To demonstrate support for Suárez, his team-mates and manager wore a T-shirt bearing Suárez's name and image before a match against Wigan Athletic.[30] The T-shirts provoked criticism that the gesture conflicted with football's anti-racism campaign Kick It Out.[31]

Liverpool accepted that the behaviour of Luis Suárez was not in line with the values of the club and agreed that his punishment was absolutely correct.


On 31 December 2011, the FA released the contents of their findings.[32] In a 115-page report, the FA said that Suárez had "damaged the image of English football around the world". The FA, while finding Evra to be a credible witness, declared that Suárez's evidence was unreliable and inconsistent with the video footage. According to Evra's testimony, Suárez said in Spanish that he had earlier kicked Evra "because you are black", said "I don't speak to blacks", and used the Spanish word "negro" five times in total as they argued. Suárez claimed that he used the word "negro" only once to address Evra and this was intended to be conciliatory and friendly, but the FA rejected this claim as being "unsustainable and simply incredible given that the players were engaged in an acrimonious argument".

As much of the conversation between Suárez and Evra had taken place in Spanish, linguistic experts were called in to help the panel with the meaning of the phrases [33] the FA panel concluded that "Suárez's use of the term [negro] was not intended as an attempt at conciliation or to establish rapport; neither was it meant in a conciliatory and friendly way". Suárez was also warned that two similar offences in the future could lead to "a permanent suspension".[34]

Liverpool later made the decision not to appeal Suárez's eight-match ban, releasing a statement voicing their support "to stamp out racism in every form, inside and outside the sport" and adding that it was "for this reason that Liverpool will not appeal the eight-game suspension of Luis Suárez". (FA disciplinary panel verdicts cannot be overturned, only the length of the sanction meted out can be reduced.) Liverpool continued to maintain their belief in both Suárez' innocence and a "strongly held conviction" that the Football Association and the panel it had selected constructed a highly subjective case...based on an accusation that was ultimately unsubstantiated".[35]


On 11 February 2012, Liverpool played Manchester United at Old Trafford, which was Suárez' and Evra's first meeting since Suárez' ban. During the pre-game handshakes, during which the away team normally lines up and shakes hands with the home team as they walk past, the traditional roles were reversed. According to the match referee, this was because it was best for Suarez to keep moving.[36][37] As Suárez walked past Evra, he avoided shaking Evra's hand, leading Evra to grab Suárez' arm. Suárez ignored Evra and continued down the line causing Evra to throw his arms up in protest and Rio Ferdinand, whose brother Anton had been the victim of a separate alleged racial abuse incident involving Chelsea captain John Terry, to avoid shaking Suárez' hand.[38][39] Suárez and Dalglish faced fierce and outspread media condemnation.[40] In a statement released by Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre, Liverpool also condemned Suárez, stating that Suárez had misled the club by claiming before the game that he would shake Evra's hand.[41] The next day, it was claimed that Liverpool's club owners and shirt sponsor forced both Suárez and Dalglish to issue formal apologies for their conduct.[42][43] The club later dismissed these claims, stating 'The actions the club decided to take on Sunday were supported by Standard Chartered'.[44]

In an interview in July 2012, Suárez accused Manchester United of wielding "political power" to get him suspended as a way of getting at Liverpool; Suárez also suggested that the English media conspired to manipulate coverage of the handshake incident against him.[45]

In 2014, Suárez released his autobiography Crossing the Line, in which he continued to deny the verdict that he had racially abused Evra, stating "what some people will never want to accept is that the argument took place in Spanish. I did not use the word "negro" the way it can be used in English", despite admitting that the word "negro" means "black".[46] He also complained about the after-effects, saying the verdict that he was a racist would be "a stain on my character that will probably be there forever".[47] He also criticised Liverpool's handling of the situation, blaming Damien Comolli for being unable to understand the intricacies of the Spanish language.[48]

See alsoEdit


  2. ^ Elliot Ball (31 January 2011). "Suarez seals Reds switch". Sky Sports. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Ajax accepts Suarez' suspension". AFC Ajax. 24 November 2010. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Luis Suarez story part two – new Liverpool FC star always one to hit the headlines". Liverpool Echo. Trinity Mirror. 10 February 2011. p. 3. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Luis Suárez: 'The Cannibal of Ajax'?". Guardian. Associated Press. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Suarez banned for seven games". Press Association. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Evra completes Man Utd transfer". BBC Sport. 10 January 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Man Utd 1-0 Liverpool". BBC Sport. 22 January 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Finnan rejects racism claims". Sky Sports. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Finnan cleared of racist claims". Sky Sports. 5 March 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  11. ^ "Evra charged over Blues fracas". Sky Sports. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  12. ^ "Duo deny FA charge". Sky Sports. 6 August 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  13. ^ "Evra banned and fined by FA". Sky Sports. 5 December 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Taylor, Daniel (21 December 2011). "Vindication does not come without a downside for Patrice Evra". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  15. ^ O'Sullivan, Sean (17 October 2011). "How Patrice Evra has never played the race card and why assumptions are dangerous". Republik of Mancunia. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  16. ^ "Luis Suárez race row with Patrice Evra: timeline". Telegraph. 20 October 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "The FA will look into claims Luis Suárez racially abused Patrice Evra". BBC Sport. 16 October 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "Liverpool's Luis Suárez 'upset' by Patrice Evra's racism claim". BBC Sport. 16 October 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  19. ^ Taylor, Daniel (16 November 2011). "Liverpool's Luis Suárez will plead not guilty to FA racism charge". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  21. ^ "Liverpool striker Luis Suarez handed eight-match FA ban". BBC Sport. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  22. ^ "Liverpool's Suarez banned 8 matches for remark". CNN. Associated Press. 20 December 2011. 
  23. ^ |title=UPDATE 2-Soccer-Suarez handed eight-match ban for racial abuse
  24. ^ Price, Nick. "What we learned this week... Liverpool embarrass themselves with overboard Luis Suarez support". Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  25. ^ Williams, Richard (21 December 2011). "Liverpool should take heed of the past and accept Luis Suárez verdict". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  26. ^ |title=Football Association defends disciplinary system
  27. ^ Hayward, Ben (21 December 2011). "Uruguay captain Diego Lugano leads condemnation of eight-game ban for Liverpool's Luis Suarez". 
  28. ^ "John Barnes blasts Luis Suarez 'witch hunt'". BBC Sport. 23 December 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  29. ^ "Luis Suarez has been victim of a witch hunt, says former Liverpool striker John Barnes". The Telegraph. 23 December 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  30. ^ "Liverpool players support Luis Suarez after FA race verdict". BBC. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  31. ^ "Backlash after Liverpool players wear T-shirts supporting Luis Suárez". The Guardian. 22 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  34. ^ "Football Association report says Luis Suarez evidence 'unreliable'". BBC Sport. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  35. ^ "No Luis Suarez appeal from Liverpool over racism ban". BBC Sport. 3 January 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  36. ^ |title=Clubs at Steps 1 - 7 of The FA National League System -
  37. ^ |title=Referee Phil Dowd reversed handshake protocol before Luis Suarez - Patrice Evra controversy at Old Trafford
  38. ^ "Suarez, Evra meet for 1st time since racism storm". CNN. 11 February 2012. 
  39. ^ "Rooney double overshadowed by feud". ESPN Soccernet. 11 February 2012. 
  40. ^ "Premier League – Papers savage 'paranoid' Dalglish". Yahoo! Sport. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  41. ^ "Luis Suárez, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Ayre and Man United: the statements". Guardian. Guardian News and Media. 12 February 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  42. ^ Roan, Dan (12 February 2012). "Luis Suarez and Kenny Dalglish apologise after US owners intervene over handshake row". BBC Sport. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  43. ^ "Liverpool club owners and sponsor forced manager Kenny Dalglish and striker Luis Suarez to apologise over handshake". Courier Mail Australia. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  44. ^ Suarez apologies weren't forced – Liverpool, 14 February 2012
  45. ^ "Luis Suárez says Manchester United used political clout in race row". The Guardian. 18 July 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  46. ^ Suárez, Luis (26 October 2014). "Luis Suárez: 'Am I a racist? No, absolutely not. I was horrified'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  47. ^ "Luis Suarez: Ban for Patrice Evra racism row unfair and a 'stain' on my character that will be there forever". The Telegraph. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  48. ^ Whalley, Mike (27 October 2014). "Suarez: Liverpool did not know how to deal with Evra case". ESPN. Retrieved 31 October 2014.