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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Apoyamos a Luis Suarez.

If there's a lesson to be learned from the recent treatment of Luis Suarez, it's that the truth will always out.

In a nation that has enjoyed the luxury of relative freedom for decades, it sometimes takes the right people and events to come along to administer a jolt of reminder as to what the value of truth really is. The right to defend oneself is all the more precious to those that have been forced to live without it.

It could be said about Uruguay that in the decades approaching 1985, it's culture had been shaped by a torrid history. It's equally true to say that in the years since then, it's history has been formed by the vibrant culture of it's people.
When Alex Ferguson ranted about the Uruguayan people at the 1986 World Cup, barely twelve months had passed in which they had been free from the military, dictatorial rule that had gripped their society since 1973. As Ferguson slandered the nation, it was only just beginning to put behind it a government that regularly used torture to silence voices of dissent, and it's current President had been free from captivity, for just a few short months.


That President is José Mujica. And when your character is endorsed by Mujica, it's the endorsement of a head of state who is also an experienced and principled man.
He's a leader that first rose to notoriety as a member of the armed Tupamaros National Liberation Movement, of which he later became the head, and he was active as a guerrilla fighter during the 1960s.
Following the 1973 military coup in Uruguay, Mujica spent long periods incarcerated, escaping on several occasions. By the time democracy was finally restored to the country in 1985, Mujica had spent a total of 13 years in military prisons and had been shot six times. Two years of the captivity he suffered, were famously spent in solitary confinement - at the bottom of a disused well.

José Mujica


High office has not tamed the freedom fighter in Mujica. He donates almost 90% of his state salary to causes that include the promotion of democratic representation, and the provision of housing for homeless people.
The man who holds the power to declare war on behalf of the Uruguayan people has dedicated an often risked life to the pursuit of principles of fairness. Upon his election in 2010, he was required to provide detailed accounts of his finances. The audit revealed that his only asset is a 1987 VW Beetle. Also at this time, he waived his right to the presidential palace and Mujica, a vegetarian, lives on his wife's farm on the outskirts of Montevideo.
When José Mujica speaks of injustice and comments on character, people should take note.
"There is solidarity with Suarez. Suarez is not a racist and never will be"
José Mujica, speaking to Uruguay's M24 Radio station yesterday.
"There is nothing racist"
"Some do not understand"
From Mujica's interview with the Uruguayan newspaper, Búsqueda.
Those words will no doubt be a comfort to the man that the president also referred to as "humble". Suarez has maintained his innocence at all times since the accusation by Patrice Evra and throughout the often manic media fallout.
But despite Mujica's undoubted credentials and reputation for maintaining his integrity at lofty heights, I find it significant to hear echoed in his words, the same sentiments I've been hearing for weeks while running this blog, in the messages I've received from many other Uruguayans..
Not one that I've conversed with, has been able to reconcile the reality of Uruguayan Spanish, with the interpretation of the language-related evidence at the FA hearing. And its on language more than any other aspect, that the case should have hinged.

Suarez's National team captain, Diego Lugano, also stated his belief in Suarez's innocence yesterday.
"Keep in mind that England is a country historically colonial and racism is very delicate, but we know that has nothing to do with the relationship between Luis and the United player"
 "(Suárez) has gone through a few months he did not deserve".
"All of us in football know it's a big circus. For what he did on Saturday Luis must have balls. He followed his convictions"
"We live in a democracy and if you do not want to greet someone, do not greet them."
No matter how determined an individual may be to ignore the collective voice of Uruguay, surely it's impossible to believe that any head of state - never mind one who spent over a decade in prison, and two years at the bottom of a well for his beliefs about fair representation - would put their reputation behind a man, unless after investigation, they believed the man to be innocent of the charge of which he was accused?

Lugano, Mujica and the many Uruguayans I've spoken with about the case, all seem to base their assertions that Suarez is innocent of racism, on a perception that there's been a failure to acknowledge or to understand their language.
Suarez himself alluded to this after the accusation was first levelled at him. He referred to the term that he used as being "...something that Evra's own team mates call him". It's a term that Suarez has never denied using, that seemingly every Uruguayan on Earth, including the President, is telling us is not an offensive or racially demeaning term.

Earlier in this blog, I included a report in which a Liverpool supporting Language Professor gave his own opinions on the analysis of the language evidence during the hearing.
This is a link to that section of the earlier report.

Indeed, contrary to seemingly popular belief, the experts used during the FA hearing didn't contradict the opinions of Uruguayans either. Below is the part of their reported findings that deal with Suarez's own testimony of the language he used on the day.
190. Given paragraphs 188 and 189, Mr Suarez would not have needed any further sense of familiarity to use the word "negro", which is to say how well Mr Suarez knew Mr Evra is not of particular importance; in Rioplatense Spanish the use of "negro" as described here by Mr Suarez would not be offensive. Indeed, it is possible that the term was intended as an attempt at conciliation and/or to establish rapport (see 175 above).  
191. The question "Por qué, negro?" as transcribed in Mr Suarez's interview sounded right linguistically and culturally and is in line with the use set out by Mr Suarez when referring to Glen Johnson; Mr Suarez was also correct in highlighting that "negro de mierda" would be a clear racial slur. 
194. The experts concluded their observations on Mr Suarez's account as follows. If Mr Suarez used the word "negro" as described by Mr Suarez, this would not be interpreted as either offensive or offensive in racial terms in Uruguay and Spanish-speaking America more generally; it is being used along the lines of paragraphs 172, 173 and 175 above.
In a case where there existed an unfeasible lack of any camera footage of what Evra claimed had been a sustained and prolonged abuse, the lower burden of proof required in FA hearings enabled the panel to reach a verdict, that was based only on one man's word against another's. For this reason, the FA asked the language experts to prepare two separate opinions; one based on each player's testimony.

In reaching their final judgement, the panel opted to accept the version that corresponded to the testimony of Evra. They made this decision, despite the Fa experts telling them that the language that Evra attributed to Suarez did not match the Spanish used by people in Uruguay, and despite Evra relying on his own interpretation of a language foreign to him, which as a Frenchman, his limited knowledge of is based on the version of Spanish used in Europe.

Many Uruguayans, and all of the Liverpool supporters that have bothered to look beyond the FA report and the superficial media interpretations of it, are bothered by what's perceived as hypocrisy on the part of the FA, the press and the various anti-racism organisations that have waged a campaign against Luis Suarez in the name of eradicating intolerance. What seems to irk football supporters in Uruguay, apart from the technical short comings of the case, is that the FA embarked on a quest against intolerance, whilst making a conscious decision to ignore Suarez's own cultural origin.
It's the ramifications of that hypocrisy which make me ashamed of our Football Association. Once again, an insular, xenophobic attitude to cultural diversity is costing us dear. In a grandstanded effort to appear to be more anti-racist than Sepp Blatter, the FA have ended up portraying this country as an arrogant, objectionable island full of spoiled cretins, to nations overseas.

The fight against racism in English football currently looks a fairly hollow one from where I'm standing.
The FA, in the process of hearing a case of alleged racism, denied a man the right to reference his ethnicity and cultural background for the purposes of defending himself, purely because he was on English soil. They sent out a message to the world that as far as the governance of English football is concerned, what's foreign is irrelevant and unacceptable.
They rubbished the concept of multiculturalism, and in doing so they terminally undermined confidence in their ability to conduct the fight in the future using similar systems, personnel and structures.

What further unsettles those that have cast a critical eye over the proceedings and the resulting report, is the way that the unfair condemnation of the original verdict has been amplified by large sections of the domestic media.
There seems little doubt that if Suarez had been afforded the consideration that his nationality, and national language deserved, a competent press would have been crawling all over things, asking questions on behalf of a public that needs effective methods of dealing with racism in every branch of society, including sport.

In pushing a politically correct ideal, for the purposes of a commercially obsessed agenda, the tabloid media have gotten things terribly wrong. In terms of how we're perceived as a nation, and how we exist as a nation, we're far worse off for that. 

Too much to expect maybe from the elements of the press that still go to print with "a negro" and probably going too far to dream about a day when talkSport gets off it's lobotomised high horse of sensationalism for long enough to do some actual journalism for once, but is it too too much to ask that more than the very few that did, question what's an extremely shaky FA system for discipline, and one that's definitely not fit for the purpose of dealing with serious issues like racism?

The FA, the media and the organisations tasked with the eradication of racism from sport; sort your selves out. Because the public criticisms of a foreign head of state are infinitely more embarrassing and damaging to the cause of anti-racism, than a fairer FA process and a measured, informed media response ever would have been.

Nacional supporters. The use of the word eggs, equates in slang terms, to the use of the English word "balls"


That's really where the axe fell. The verdict was based on the fact that the panel, in deciding to take Evra's word over Suarez, ignored the fact that in Uruguay and ergo in Suarez's dialect, what he said wasn't offensive or a racial slur.
It's primarily why the people of Uruguay don't accept the verdict, and why they know that Suarez is not a racist, or guilty of racist abuse.

Nacional players in Uruguay last night 


What the visual support in Uruguay seems to illustrate, is that it's citizens feel that the language that Evra attributed to Suarez, was not the language a Uruguayan would ever use. The experts from the FA panel, and our own Uruguayan professor reinforce that view.
It seems to follow that the solidarity declared by the President of Uruguay is also based on this rejection of Evra's testimony, and rooted in a belief in the legitimacy of Suarez's account.
Whilst the president stopped short of calling Evra a liar, or suggesting that his account might be fake, he did mention exaggeration and it's difficult for anyone to be able to believe, in finding Suarez's testimony to be the only one that makes sense, that Evra could have been accurate. That in turn leads a person to conclude that he either lied, or misunderstood and refused to retract his claim when that became apparent.

Nacional supporters at last night's match "Uruguay is with you, Suarez"


"Nacional is always with Luis"


The supporters of Nacional last night, amid full-blown displays of their belief that Suarez is innocent, appeared to offer none of that presidential pulling of punches. They clearly believe that Evra's account represents a very unlikely scenario. The message in many of the banners is that Manchester United, at the hands of Alex Ferguson and Evra, has reaped as much benefit from what are believed to be lies about a Uruguayan, as it possibly could.

Nacional supporters wearing Suarez masks, last night.


"Mr Ferguson, wash your mouth out before talking of Suarez"



The Uruguayan nation and the Uruguayan president, put the gravity of their support behind Luis Suarez this week.
Uruguayans know Uruguayan Spanish best. Presidents don't often commit in such plain terms without prior analysis.
Even for an FA panel so arrogant that it saw fit to discard the opinion of experts in South American Spanish and use one man's word against another for the purpose of forcing a politically pleasing verdict, that is one loud, collective Uruguayan voice and it must be hard to ignore.





Section 13 from the Crowdsourced Post

13. Flaws in the treatment of Spanish Language  


Below are also the thoughts of an independent expert in Spanish language.
A professor at an Ivy League university in the United States whose name is available by request, he is also a native of Montevideo.
He has posted these thoughts online and I couldn’t do them any more justice by attempting to rephrase them. 


It should be noted that we did not wish to question the integrity of the language experts, as the club did not. However given that the report is riddled with inconsistencies as shown above, it’s quite possible that the report did not give a fair account of what the language experts said. It’s quite possible that the Panel have been as selective with the language experts’ testimony as they have with all the other witness testimonies.


*On another note, one of experts used “has experience of Spanish usage mainly in Colombia, Mexico and Spain” (Point 164). The nearest of those 3 places to Montevideo is Colombia, some 3,000 miles away. Incidentally, the distance between Liverpool and Moscow is considerably less than that.


What follows are the words of the Spanish language expert.


I will quote first the FA document on the key point:


90. Mr Evra's evidence was that, in response to his question "Why did you kick me?", Mr Suarez replied "Porque tu eres negro". Mr Evra said that at the time Mr Suarez made that comment, he (Mr Evra) understood it to mean "Because you are a ******". He now says that he believes the words used by Mr Suarez mean "Because you are black".


I read the whole Commission report. I am a Uruguayan born in Montevideo, currently a university Literature and Language professor in the US. It is clear to me that the Spanish language reported by Evra is inconsistent with Luis Suárez’s way of speaking Spanish. The key is that Evra makes Suárez to appear using forms of Spanish Suárez just wouldn't use. Suárez cannot speak as Evra reported him speaking. 


This is, I believe, key for the case and, if acknowledged, it would destroy Evra’s credibility. The fact is that, even though the Panel was advised by the experts they consulted that the word chosen by Suarez as alleged by Evra was “odd”, they did not pay the due attention to this observation. They decided to believe that a very tiny, highly unlikely possibility of Suárez talking in such a way as reported by Evra actually happened. They decided not to give any importance to the essential fact that Suárez would never say “porque tu eres negro” (that is just not a way of speaking in the Rio de la Plata area), much less “porque tu es negro” or “tues negro” (as Comolli stated), which are grammatically incorrect or just do not exist in Spanish.  


You don’t use the verb “ser” (to be) in the Rio de la Plata area that way. Luis Suarez would have said “porque sos negro”. And we of course don’t say “por que tu es negro” (of Comolli’s testimony) because this is no Spanish syntax. In that sentence “es” is being wrongly conjugated in the third person of singular while it should have been conjugated in the second, “sos” (and never, I repeat, “eres”). Hence, I don't know what Comolli heard from Suarez after the match, but I am positive he got it wrong.  


Evra reports Suárez speaking in words that Suarez simply would not use, but the Panel accepts his word as more reliable than Suarez’s.


That said, let’s pay some attention to the sloppy way in which the Panel has managed the Spanish language in their report.


138. Mr Comolli said in his witness statement that Mr Suarez told him nothing happened. He said that there was one incident where he said sorry to Mr Evra and Mr Evra told him "Don't touch me, South American" to which Mr Comolli thought Mr Suarez said he had replied "Por que, tu eres negro?". (...) Mr Comolli confirmed under cross-examination that he believed that what he was told by Mr Suarez in this meeting was that the words he had used to Mr Evra translated as "Why, because you are black".


“Por que, tu eres negro?”…. ? This makes no sense. It is not Spanish. “Por qué” means “why” (and not “because” in this case). It is incorrectly spelled by the Panel in their official report (they don’t seem to be careful with Spanish, since they treat Spanish in such a careless way throughout the report, despite the essential fact that this sentence is the result of a translation of a conversation being held in Spanish). The expression “Por que, tu eres negro?” cannot be translated in a way that makes sense. Literally, if I had to translate it, it would be something like this: “why, you are black?” I have no idea what that could mean.


And Mr Comolli’s version is very different from Suarez’s own statement. Let’s see what Suarez himself reported:


141. Mr Suarez's version of this conversation was as follows. He said that Mr Comolli explained to him that Sir Alex Ferguson and Mr Evra had complained to the referee that Mr Suarez had racially insulted Mr Evra five times during the game. Mr Comolli asked Mr Suarez to tell him what happened. Mr Suarez told him that Mr Evra had said to him "Don't touch me, South American". Mr Suarez had said "Por que negro?". Mr Suarez told Mr Comolli that this was the only thing he had said."


What Suarez stated makes perfect sense in the Spanish we speak in the Rio de la Plata area – even though, again, it is poorly transcribed by the Panel. They should have written: “¿Por qué, negro?” Then, I do not why, the Panel believes in the incorrect Spanish of a non-native speaker in Comolli, instead of crediting Suarez about his own words.


The linguistic abilities of the Panel are completely under question here, and they seem to have been key in their grounding of the case. Let’s see how lousy their understanding and use of Spanish language is, by looking in detail at just another part of the reasons alleged by the Panel:


284 (...) Mr Comolli said to the referee that Mr Evra first said "you are South American" to Mr Suarez who responded with "Tues Negro" which translates as "you are black".


It is appalling that the Panel, after careful consideration of everything, would even consider relevant whatever Mr Comolli might have understood from Suárez, when it is clear Mr Comolli can barely understand what he himself is trying to say in Spanish. I say this because “tues” is no Spanish word. And “tues negro” cannot be translated at all —let alone into what the Panel says it means. It’s simply not a Spanish expression, so it cannot be “translated”. Comolli’s recollection from his conversation with Suárez just after the match is unreliable. A pity since it arrived to the Panel jury through a Liverpool official, but the language is plain wrong.


In summary: Suárez could not have even said “tu eres negro”, which would be grammatically correct in Madrid, for example, because in the Rio de la Plata area we would never say “tu eres negro”, but “vos sos negro”. 


Despite that, the Panel makes it stand, transcribes it in their report, and substantiate their conviction on these words.


Reading Evra’s statement, I understand it could happen that Evra misunderstood Suárez at some point. When Suárez said “¿por qué, negro?”, Evra might have assumed that it was a racial insult, while Suárez—even in the heat of a discussion—could perfectly have said that as a way of normally expressing himself (not exactly to calm Evra down, but just because he normally would talk like that without thinking about it). This point is where the cultural clash seems more important, and it is working against Suárez because nobody in the jury seems to even start to understand the common way we use the term “negro” in the Rio de la Plata area. They heard their experts, and their experts explained the different options of our use of the word depending on different contexts and intentions. Then, the Panel just decided that the whole thing was an equally aggressive clash by both sides, and because of that, they concluded Suárez could have not used the "negro" word to Evra in a neutral way.  


Why? Their interpretation is not clear to me and doesn’t seem to be the only one possible. “¿Por qué, negro?” (after Evra said “Don’t touch me you South American”) is not offensive, but a question, and a very common one indeed, where “negro” is a neutral, unmarked word, not an adjective loaded with a negative connotation. And the most important issue here is that the term “negro” can be used in the midst of a heated discussion without carrying any racist connotation whatsoever. It works more or less like the term “pal” or “mate” in some contexts in English, a word that can indeed be used in the context of a potentially aggressive situation—for instance in a context of somebody being aggressively addressed by a total stranger who reacts by saying “take it easy, mate” or something of the sort. 


I completely understand why a British person or an American might not understand the tone or the intention from Suárez. But I myself can clearly understand the account of Suárez and it seems consistent to me. I hear it more as a common (unmarked and uncharged) address to Evra.


Finally, the whole verdict seems to be grounded on 3 elements: 


1) The Panel tends to believe Evra is more reliable than Suarez (a purely subjective element)
2) The Panel does not seem to have understood the Spanish language allegedly used - even though they grounded they verdict on their own interpretation of that very Spanish language.
3) They believe the word "negro" cannot be used just in a descriptive way in the context of an angry discussion -which means they don't really understand how we do use it in the Rio de la Plata area. This made them feel Suarez was unreliable and probably aggravated them.


A pity. The most important thing here has to do with proportion. Suárez’s name has been destroyed and now the Panel has shown there is NO OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE whatsoever to support Suarez saying any of the things Evra attributes to him, exception made of Evra’s own statement.”


181. The experts noted that the use of the verb form "porque tu eres negro" is not the most usual form for Montevidean Spanish, since the form of the verb "ser" most commonly used would be the "vos" form, that is "porque (vos) sos negro". Nevertheless, a small percentage of people from Montevideo do use the "tu" form (in contrast to Buenos Aires, where it is rarely used) or even a mixture of both.


I read and noticed that the panel noticed this. The problem is that they do not make anything out of it. The use of "tu" is very uncommon in Montevideo --basically a few individuals in the highest social layers, or people from the south-east of the country (and Suarez was born in the north-west part of it), and "porque tu eres negro" sounds utterly "literary". Evra makes Suarez to sound like an XIX century writer from Cuba or Mexico. No football player would talk like that. On the other hand, that is exactly the way Evra or anybody familiar with Spanish from Spain (not from Uruguay or Argentina) would have made the sentence up if he had to invent it.


It is just totally implausible that Suarez used that language. It seems to me that their experts called the Panel's attention to this key issue, and they just did not apply it correctly and dismissed it as unimportant. But it is important.


87. Mr Evra and Mr Suarez are agreed that they spoke to each other in Spanish in the goalmouth. Mr Evra said that he is not exactly fluent in Spanish but that he can easily converse in Spanish. For Mr Suarez, Spanish is his native language as a Uruguayan. Mr Evra told us that he began the conversation by saying "Concha de tu hermana". Mr Evra's evidence was that this is a phrase used in Spanish like when you say "******* hell" in English, but the literal translation is "your sister's pussy". Mr Suarez did not hear Mr Evra say this. One of the video clips that we have seen, taken from a close up angle behind the goal, does appear to support Mr Evra's evidence that he started the conversation with this comment.


There is no room for interpretation. "La concha de tu hermana" is a very gruesome insult. It means literally "Your sister's c**t", and it is what you would say just before, say, getting in a fist fight or something--because there is no room for more words after such a violent verbal attack. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Great PR Scramble.

They say we've made a hash of everything. Brought disrepute on the game and tarnished what they call 'a rich reputation'.
Even some of the support is cracking.
"We need a great PR team."
"Bring in the spin doctors!"

People forget that PR is only useful in playing media games. That its part and parcel of a dance that the media conducts. That it's a way and a means to court the type of publicity you want. It's not the accurate projection of truth or beliefs, it's the utilisation of a modern media arena, to present strategies for making the most of the press as a means to sway public opinion. It's largely a lie, and at best, distorts what's real about the way people think and how organisations operate, turning everything into a false projection, more akin to the way people would prefer things to be.

Remember Shankly, remember Paisley, Fagan and remember Dalglish's first term in charge here. The quotes that do the rounds, the interviews and the statements aren't based on anything other than a genuine philosophy for a football club, developed over years of competition for the purpose of winning honourably.
The projection that Shankly offered, relied on the truth of the club, sometimes mischievously maximised to best effect, but always as a means to empower the support. Never without an eye on avoiding any exclusion of that support, and forever with the aim of establishing and maintaining  a club that instilled great pride in those that followed it.
Beyond that, there was no strategy or deceit, no spin and no attempts to make it out to be anything that it wasn't.

I can understand why there's parts of the support calling for a transformation to a more guarded, contrived method of releasing information to the world. I hear all the calls for a switch to PR, all the statements that say that most of the shitstorm of the last few months was caused by a faulty approach by the club to the matters at hand.
I see the potential benefits of a system that panders to an opportunistic media for supposed gain, but I don't want it.
I don't want a club that's based on a PR generated, bullshit version of what it used to be.

We as a support, get called all sorts of things that allude in a derogatory sense to our tendency to pack together and defend together. It's been used against us recently in a similar way as some have always criticised our determination to support causes that we hold dear or to call into question the way we've rallied against forces that have sought to destroy us, or mar the names of our own in the past.
But I don't see anything negative in our ability to circle wagons when required, or in characteristics that enable us to focus effort on a common goal when that goal is honourable, mutually beneficial and worthwhile.
Traditionally, our support has been about unity and shared responsibility and reward.  In the list of the things that made us great that we need to combine with the modern to facilitate development that marries the best of the old with the needs of the present day game, that unity, solidarity and generosity in support is one of the things that we desperately need to maintain - even, these days, to expand on. And the straightforward, upfront way in which we communicate as a club should for me, also be a vital ingredient in that recipe, if we want to preserve what we see as the ethos of the club.
It's what the PR and business heads would call our USP - our unique selling point.

When we sanction a switch to the corporate systems of communication that the ownership and the sponsorship exist by, we surrender what differentiates our supporters from everyone else.
"You looking for the holy trinity? Sorry mate, it shut down and it's a bank now. They paved the paradise next to it and put up the car park".
We'd be giving up what we are - for dollars. And that's not necessary.
In an era of our future history where the pressures of football finance are dictating that we must even give up the bricks and the mortar of what constitutes Liverpool Football Club and move away from the physical site of the events and the victories that shaped us, the philosophies that enabled those victories are all the more precious. And we absolutely must attribute to them, the importance that they deserve if we're to hold out any hope of retaining the fabric of our identity as we move towards a future in Stanley Park.

There never has been, and never will be any necessity to run the football side of the club in the same way as we run the business side. Let's not forget that the criticisms that Dalglish has endured over the last several weeks haven't been based on how he was saying things, they've been based on the fact that what he was saying didn't fall into line with a circling media that was united behind a politically correct, safe and warm stance on what was wrongly perceived as being racism.
It was an attack on a determination to defend innocence that was based on good management. Kenny wasn't playing the game, and definitely not in the way he was expected to.
It didn't help that his sense of honour and loyalty to truth, led him down a path that gave the media more fuel and ensured more column inches, but that wasn't the fault of truth, loyalty or Dalglish, and it's not something PR would have changed, at least not unless we wanted to sell Dalglish out, in an attempt to fall into line with some modern version of public football.

I accept that we may have made mistakes, but I'm sick to be honest of the calls to "draw a line", and especially of "let's put this behind us". Both of those things are made almost impossible to do unless you sell out the principles that drove the stand that Dalglish took in the first place. And let's not forget that the owners were free to, and had the jurisdiction to step in at any time if the stand was felt to not represent the facts surrounding the case - it was Dalglish speaking, but it wasn't an autonomous Dalglish.
Nor were the players silent.

Even if you do manage to draw that imaginary line, the press don't truly let you and the niggling away at your honour continues.
If you succeed somehow in the impossible "putting behind you" of the events of recent weeks, then what's left is perceived by the outside public to be an unfinished, shameful stain. Nothing improves if you've abandoned the stand to achieve the drawing of a line in an attempt to move on.
PR or no PR, it's then set to be perceived to be an admittance of guilt by a public that were never convinced of anything otherwise, by their lapping up of a line-towing press, and it's nothing more in reality than surrenderng to the lies and the faulty process that produced the problem in the first place.
And how would we get there? By setting aside the likes of Dalglish and the ethos of this club, to buy PR?
No thanks.

Whatever we do, in assessing the damages and attempting to avoid a repeat of this situation, we should not forget the nature of the processes that brought us to this point in the first place.
I've even heard people condoning the sponsor's decision to issue a public statement in the press. There's no facility in sponsorship that enables that right. It's not what you get for your twenty million quid, although you do reserve the right to have input privately with the club with regard to how your image is being affected.
Some might say it's tragically apt and illustrative, that amid this shady business of the practice of projecting opinion onto the public, it should happen to be a bank of all things, that should object so strongly to public declarations of support for a party deemed innocent by the club, on the basis that it's bad PR.

Twenty million pounds a year isn't worth the conversion from truth to bullshit, in my opinion. It isn't worth discarding the philosophies that Dalglish is required to continue by the memory of the greats he served under, and once the corporate crosses the line into what defines the club, the resulting 'business dynamics' won't be worth a rat's arse to a support that usually rallies behind simple, honest leadership, great football and decent sporting values.

The FA vision for football doesn't match what I was brought up with.
The media version of football is largely based on nothing more than any distortion or lie that sells more copy and increases hits for Internet advertising.

Before the calls for PR at dugout level, what was looking so positive about the new owners' regeneration and restructuring of the club, was an apparent conviction to do so whilst putting football men in charge of the football, and by putting strategies in place to take advantage of revenue streams that have been ignored for the last couple of decades. It looked like an attempt to let the football club run itself, and maximise the potential of the resultant brand overseas.
In the rush to react to the events of the last few months, you as a supporter have to ask yourself whether it's worth sacrificing that balance, for the promise of something that by definition, represents the sanitising of the football club for the purpose of making it purely a component in a wider game. One that generates billions of pounds from markets made up of misinformed, robotic consumers. Consumers not of football, and not of the football clubs, but buyers into the merry-go-round that encapsulates them.

Corporate sterility doesn't produce or promote magic. Business can't replicate the romanticism of European nights at Anfield in full flow. Even most of the overpaid footballers of today don't produce for fabricated incentive. They play best when it's out of respect for greater peers than them, in an effort to emulate that greatness. Great sporting achievement is best served and produced by sport, not by business.

Football clubs only benefit from being run as a business at the top - not from the top down.
Sponsorship and ownership should be mostly silent and business strategy should be formulated behind closed doors, it's implementation announced separately from the football, and structured to compliment success on the field that's based on integrity and a belief in something real. It shouldn't be the other way around, the tail shouldn't be wagging the dog at Anfield, because the dog has got a wise old head on it.

Certain situations recently were no win opportunities in the media, because of what football has become. But that's not to say that retaining the values that made us great in the first place isn't a viable option.
That's not to say we can't support our manager or that he was wrong.
What makes us strong and different to everyone else is that we're Liverpool, and we don't just talk about Shankly because he was dead good, we remember him by being what he showed us we could be, and we breathe and live the likes of Shankly because he represents truth, honesty and loyalty. Because we unite behind the personification of that.
Dalglish is a product as a man, of a glorious career in football that encompasses some of the best of what we ever amounted to here as a club, and in many ways as a city.
PR is largely just bollocks.

Keep your blue sky thinking for the boardroom and the team can play on the field, in the red that Shankly made invincible. We'll conduct ourselves in the way in which he showed us how to conduct ourselves, if that's alright with everyone else - and even if it's not.


Friday, 10 February 2012

Media Agendas on Racism in Football - Helping or Hurting?

Do we believe that football supporters in England are fundamentally racist? Do we believe that players in our league are flag waving supporters of a fascist ideology? Or perhaps culturally or intelligently ignorant to what is an acceptable insult on a football pitch?

In the past few months I have been beginning to wonder. As a life-long Liverpool supporter, and a life-long Labour supporter I find it sickening that the media have pigeon holed Liverpool supporters as ‘racists’. My view is that in a civilised society everybody is equal, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, or political allegiance. I find it difficult to understand how journalists can be so sweeping in a generalisation of a support to push a particular agenda.

So that brings us to the great British media; the very heart of our democratic right to ‘free speech’. Since the Leveson enquiry begun we have found out a great deal about the culture of many of those in the media. It is the arrogant view of editors and journalists that it is the right of the press to destroy a reputation of a person or establishment without recourse in ‘the public interest’.

But what about the occasions that the press get it wrong? You cannot undo a headline; but you can destroy a person or entity by sensationalising a story that will sell newspapers.

I watched with interest Alastair Campbell’s points on Question Time recently. Whilst one of the great ‘spin doctors’ of our generation, Campbell is also well qualified to comment on the influence of the British press in society and its influence on public opinion.

Campbell was passionate in his condemnation of the press as acting on an agenda that will sell newspapers; that is detached from the more noble and moral purpose of journalism which is about investigating issues and providing balanced and unbiased opinion.

Unfortunately; many in the media lost that moral compass long ago. Journalism today is about commercial success, it isn’t pursuing justice. Sensationalism and disproportionate reporting are what fuels journalistic instinct in many cases these days. Gone are the days where a journalist is driven by integrity, it is now about how many papers you can sell in a declining market.

For the purpose of balance; I don’t want to generalise and stain every journalist. In the Suarez case; there have been many journalists that have tried to report with a sense of balance and proportion, probably in the face of editorial pressure, such as John Sinnott at the BBC, Tony Barrett and Tony Evans at the Times and Henry Winter at the Telegraph. I am sure there are others, but these are the ones that I have seen at least try to keep an open mind and sense of perspective.

Some of the coverage I have seen since the accusation against Luis Suarez has showcased the irresponsibility of some journalists. Racism in football and racism in society is a serious issue; it isn’t something that should be sensationalised and used to push a particular agenda.

The deliberately provocative headlines and coverage in some newspapers has fuelled the racial debate; it has created tensions where they didn’t need to exist. Football has moved on leaps and bounds in the fight against racism, but it still has work to do. Giving racism a voice and sensationalising isolated incidents is not the way to fight this stain on society.

Petty point scoring and using a high profile ‘racism’ case that you are fully aware is full of holes and unanswered questions borderlines on irresponsibility to your profession. I cannot understand the logic of condemning a Football Club and its manager on one hand for being irresponsible in its reaction to racism (when in fact it was a reaction to a dysfunctional process); and on the other hand fuelling a debate by continuing to court reaction at every opportunity.

Martin Lipton at the Mirror made a very interesting point on the media reaction to Luis Suarez; suggesting that the Leveson enquiry has meant editorial reaction to a high profile ‘race’ incident was to be seen ‘holier than tho’ following the phone hacking scandal. That is all well and good, and perfectly understandable. But somewhere in the midst of that reaction are a player and a football club that has been unfairly and disproportionately treated.

A reputation can take a lifetime time to build, but can be destroyed in an instant. The reason that I am so passionate in my defence of the club and Suarez in the face of widespread media condemnation is because I believe that the coverage and reaction from the FA has been disproportionate to the incident from the outset.

Despite an insensitive and inappropriate comment on Heysel recently Paddy Barclay made interesting comments on the Suarez case.

“To be fair to fellow football writers, most suspected of dubbing Suarez racist had the word put in their mouths, as I did. Not much fun.”

“And remember Suarez has been officially deemed not - repeat not - racist. Drop that. Even Dalglish and disciples being obstinate, not odious.”

I am fairly sure that these comments will never see the light of day in the Standard; but it gives an interesting insight into the media reaction and condemnation of Suarez.

I have always suspected that Suarez was in the wrong place at the wrong time; both in the reaction from the FA and from the media. Blatter’s comments and Leveson have both been catalyst behind a dis-proportionate reaction to a disputed incident.

Whatever the facts surrounding the on-field events that got Luis Suarez and John Terry into trouble, the two cases differ on the cultural and linguistic nuances of the alleged exchanges that took place. Not every incident of ‘racism’ will be the same. A one size fits all approach will mean that context can never be considered; and in incidents where education is as important as sanction; such as in the Suarez case, the sense of proportion will be completely lost.

The media had a responsibility to dig deep into the FA verdict; not just accept the norm. We have explored in this blog the failings of the FA; and we have evidenced this with sound reasoning. This isn’t just a view that Liverpool Football Club hold; you only need to look as far as the UK Government to see that the FA does not play fairly.

The fact that the media have chosen to ignore this is what has fuelled the apathy from Liverpool fans. It would be the ultimate irony if Leveson recommends journalistic standards that will be upheld by an ‘independent regulatory body’ in a similar structure to the FA. It would be interesting to see journalistic reaction if they were subject to the same process as Luis Suarez for disciplinary matters.

Leveson will hopefully change journalism for the better in this country and raise standards. I don’t want to gag the free press in this country; but I do believe being a journalist comes with a responsibility. I am sure most good journalists take that seriously; but there have been incidents recently where editorial agendas have compromised responsible journalism.

Fuelling racial tensions and creating a dis-proportionate debate on racism in football has been disappointing to see. And pushing that agenda on the actions of a football club determined to stand by a player judged guilty by a flawed process has showcased a complete lack of integrity in balanced and fair reporting.

The FA and the media both have issues to resolve. Neither is acting responsibly and fairly in current guises; as Lord Burns and Lord Leveson both well know. Perhaps it is time to get houses in order before throwing stones at others; although that does deflect attention.

(Simon Steers)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Why Dalglish Maintains Stance Over Suarez Ban.

Monday night saw the Liverpool number seven return in the home draw with Tottenham. Liverpool supporters wore masks bearing the face of their hero, they sang his name, meanwhile, Tottenham fans chanted about him being John Terry in disguise.  This match has laid down a marker for how Suarez is going to be treated possibly for the rest of his time in England, though he can expect it to be at its worst at Old Trafford on Saturday.  The most notable part of the game from Suarez was when he accidently kicked Scott Parker when expecting the ball to drop for the volley. This happens in a game of football, the ref rightly booked him for it, and the situation was done, or so it should have been.
You see, as the referee put his card away, the masses were in hysteria.  Suarez should have been sent off according to Manchester Utd’s Scouser in denial, Wayne Rooney, a man currently serving a ban for kicking out childishly at an opponent whilst playing for England last year, something which forced his football association to go on their hands and knees to beg for a reduction.  He said it should have been red, and so did many others, because they want to believe Suarez did it on purpose.  It fits in with the villain status he now has in England, a status ensured by a 115 page report with purely subjective findings, and one which is being enforced on Suarez ironically by people who never even read it. England loves a good witch hunt after all.
After the game, Kenny Dalglish was doing his usual post match interviews.  When asked what it was like to have his striker back, he claimed he should never have been banned in the first place. Surely not, right? I mean the report said he was guilty, Liverpool accepted the ban didn’t they? Wrong. Liverpool accepted the ban after conceding defeat to a stitch up from a Kangaroo court (had to be said again), they never accepted the verdict was correct though. They were forced to accept it on technicalities and conjecture, knowing that no matter what they did it wouldn’t change or the true events of what take place on that day in October be documented fairly. At this point, I could go into detail about all the faults of the report and Patrice Evra’s testimony, but that’s been highlighted many times by better men than me.
What I will say is that the handling of this case shames the FA and Britain to an extent. Never has it been asked why if Suarez intentionally abused Patrice Evra with regards to his race, why did he admit the word he said when asked straight away? Surely if it was his intention, he would deny all claims and that would be that. The truth is that it wasn’t his intention to racially abuse him. He didn’t do so, in fact.  The arrogance of a British establishment like the FA to flat out ignore cultural differences tells you all you need to know.  When you read the report, and how the commission ignored what Suarez had to say, and the exaggerated claims they deemed to be true from Evra, it can only be believed that they set out to find guilt and this utter unfounded nonsense of the number of times they claim he said the word prove that.   In essence, Suarez never stood a chance. 
Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool football club have maintained their player is innocent. There is no need for them to change their stance because they had to accept the ban. The club’s statements during and after tell you all you need to know. They have no need to show remorse, as some odd John Terry apologisers claim (yes you, Emily Bishop’s son), they are correct in their stance, and have been from day one of this debacle. It is outright hypocrisy for people to suggest that Suarez getting taunted by other supporters because of the verdict is correct after the ban is served and then to claim that Liverpool can’t defend their man.  They have every right to and it says a lot that after serving it, Liverpool still do so. It proves it was never about him getting banned and Liverpool trying to avoid it, it was about, and remains so, the fact they believe he’s innocent. So while the media are hoping to keep their pantomime villain, and the likes of Wayne Rooney are looking for a scapegoat, Liverpool can quite assuredly carry on and maintain their defence of a man who has done nothing wrong.  Either last night or back on October 15th. For as long as the media continue with their reports of Luis Suarez “racially abusing” Patrice Evra despite the fact a report these same outlets are holding such stock in saying otherwise, Liverpool reserve the right to defend their man and argue his innocence.  We live in a world where innocent men get punished for crimes they did not commit in all walks of life, Luis Suarez, like them, has the right to defend himself even having served the punishment.  I for one will back him and the club in doing so. In fact, I applaud them for doing so.


(By kingCarra)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Analysis of Suarez & the FA, via Crowdsourcing

Josie's note: I was contacted earlier today and asked if I'd include the following on the blog. 
Although there's been a lot of similar articles, blog pieces and forum posts on the subject, I think this piece contains some really unique analysis. It includes an excellent section (section 13), by a real language expert, specialising in the dialect local to where Luis Suarez comes from. The guy is a native of Montevideo, and currently works at an Ivy League university in the US. There's some great stuff on Marriner's report too. 
All in all, it's a detailed, careful and informative dismantling of key elements of the case and the whole thing serves as a great illustration of the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the process that Suarez was subjected to.
It's a reasonably long piece, but if you're going to read just one, or even just one more analysis of the hearing and report, make it this one.



The following evidence has been gathered via “crowdsourcing”. It was compiled by a group of Liverpool fans but with a concerted effort to leave all bias out of our thinking. Although it was our initial bias and suspicion which naturally motivated us to dig beneath the surface and take a closer look at the Panel’s words.
This is purely a deconstruction and dissection of the Independent Panel’s report. It includes nothing that was omitted from the report. Here we refer strictly to the contents of the report itself.

The first thing to underline is that the Panel in their report conceded that the case came down to who they believed; Evra or Suarez, and that the case was decided on the balance of probability (Point 76). If what Evra was saying was true then Suarez had used words that could be “understood to be offensive, and offensive in racial terms” (Point 197). If what Suarez was saying was true, then he had not racially abused Evra (Point 198). The Panel then proceeded to find Suarez guilty because they felt Evra’s testimony was more trustworthy.

Another aspect that deserves comment has to do with the very relevant fact that the conversation between Evra and Suárez took place in Spanish. Hence, the whole hearing and the verdict were the result of a process of translation. A British citizen, despite of course being subject to the rules of a country he is visiting, would no doubt object if he was convinced that a verdict against him was issued based on a mistranslation of his words into the language of the country he was in. Hence, the discussion on the meaning of the Spanish words used by the protagonists turns out to be of the essence of the case. This aspect has been, nevertheless, mishandled by the FA Commission and dismissed by the press as a secondary factor. Experts that we consulted for the purpose of this dissection have concluded that the way the FA Commission dealt with the whole issue of Spanish language during the disciplinary process, is seriously flawed.

There is repeated evidence that mistakes have been made in the interpretation of Spanish by the FA Commission. In particular, regarding the usage and meaning of the word “negro” in the context of a heated discussion. While the FA Commission assumed that it could not be used in such a context without carrying a racist connotation, the opinion of the expert consulted by us states precisely the opposite: that it could be and furthermore that it is indeed commonly used both in friendly and unfriendly situations, without carrying any racist content in either case. It was our expert's belief that it could not be the case that made the FA Commission believe that Suárez was an unreliable witness, since he claimed he used the word even in a non-friendly context without intending it to be racist.

It is worth noting here that neither Patrice Evra nor the FA Commission concluded that Luis Suárez is a racist. On the contrary, they explicitly stated otherwise (Point 336).

The evidence we find within the Panel’s own report severely brings their conclusions into doubt, to the point where we find it astonishing that Suarez could be found guilty 'on the balance of probability', and certainly not on the basis of 'beyond reasonable doubt'.


Our dissection is structured under the following headings:

1. The Panel’s conclusion that Suarez called Evra “negro” 7 times

2. The Panel’s use of Mr Haughan’s evidence

3. The Panel’s use of Dirk Kuyt’s evidence

4. The fact that Evra was provided with video footage while Suarez was not

5. Inconsistencies in Suarez’s testimony

6. Testimonies from players and club officials and their treatment by the Panel

7. Suarez and the arm pinching

8. Inconsistencies in Evra’s accusation against Suarez relating to the actual word and its frequency

9. Evra and the N-word

10. Evra’s agitated state

11. The Panel’s inconsistent treatment of character

12. The Panel’s inconsistent application of literal translations

13. Possible flaws in both aspects of the testimony of the linguistic experts and in the way their testimony was generally applied to the case.



1. The Panel’s conclusion that Suarez called Evra “negro”, 7 times 


Point 102 of the report reads as follows:

102. We examined closely the video footage of this moment which took place in the 64th minute. When the referee blew his whistle to stop play, Mr Evra and Mr Suarez were standing close to each other, having just run and challenged for the corner. The referee called them over to him. Mr Suarez said something to Mr Evra, then started to walk away. There is a clear reaction by Mr Evra to Mr Suarez's comment. This is apparent in two ways. First, there is a facial reaction by Mr Evra, akin to a look of surprise. Secondly, whilst looking at the referee, Mr EvraEvra walks towards the referee and says something while pointing back at Mr Suarez. 

The Panel thus uses Evra’s look of surprise as evidence that Suarez has said “negro” to him in this instance. However two key things to note here are that:
Suarez argues that this is the first and only time he used the word “negro” towards Evra.
If Evra’s version of events are to be believed, then this would actually be the 6th instance that Suarez had used the word.

The Panel themselves believe that Suarez must have said it at this particular point due to video footage of Evra’s reaction, but this actually supports Suarez’s testimony rather than Evra’s version.

Evra version (Point 5):

 ******* hell, why did you kick me?
Because you are a ******? (no visible or physical reaction from Evra)
Say it to me again, I’m going to punch you.
I don’t speak to *******. (no visible or physical reaction from Evra)
Okay, now I think I’m going to punch you.
Okay, ******, ******, ******. (no visible or physical reaction from Evra)

No one else heard this exchange. No evidence supports that it took place. Evra didn’t react in a way that supports that it took place. He didn’t run to the referee in disgust.
What’s more is that Suarez’s version (Point 6) more accurately corresponds with the video footage, for example his “quacking” motion (Point 372).

It is clear that the Panel has not worked to the concept of the 'balance of probabilities' fairly at all here.

The Panel also describe Suarez’s quacking gesture as “puzzling” (Point 373), when it is quite clear that it means “shut up” or “you’re all talk”, which would thus support Suarez’s version of events.


2. The Panel’s use of Mr Haughan’s evidence 

Mr Ray Haughan is Liverpool FC's Team Administration Manager, and normally stands outside the Liverpool dressing room at half time and full time in case anyone needs anything. (Points 132 – 133)

Mr Haughan’s evidence to the panel was to simply state that he had heard Sir Alex Ferguson make the initial complaint to the match officials and then informed the Liverpool management of what was happening. (Points 134 – 135)

However the Panel make extremely curious use of this testimony as shown below:

276. Mr Haughan said that when he overheard Sir Alex Ferguson complain to the referee after the match, he heard him say that Mr Suarez had called Mr Evra a nigger "five times". If that is true, it is probable that Mr Evra was the source for Sir Alex's figure. Mr Evra said in his evidence to us that he had been called "negro" five times, namely (1) "Porque tu eres negro", (2) "No hablo con los negros", and (3) "Dale negro, negro, negro". Thus, it might appear that Mr Haughan's evidence supports Mr Evra's evidence that the word was used five times in the goalmouth. 

277. In a supplemental statement, Sir Alex said that he thought he may have told the referee that Mr Evra had been called the word several times, but did not recall having said specifically that it was five times and thinks it unlikely he would have done so. Mr Evra did not mention in his evidence any specific number that he told Sir Alex at the time. 

278. Nonetheless, Mr Haughan does remember Sir Alex saying five times. This is the sort of detail that Mr Haughan might remember given the unusual circumstances in which he overheard the complaint and the fact that Mr Haughan reported what he had heard to the Liverpool management. In our judgement, this lent some weight to the credibility of Mr Evra's evidence that Mr Suarez used the word five times in the goalmouth. 

The Panel essentially used the fact that Mr Haughan had repeated Mr Ferguson’s initial complaint that Suarez had said “negro” five times, as evidence that Suarez must indeed have said it five times. This, despite Ferguson indicating in his own testimony that he was not sure he had even said that (point 277).


3. The Panel’s use of Dirk Kuyt’s evidence 

We found that the Panel was extremely selective in its use of Dirk Kuyt’s evidence.

83. Mr Evra said that while he was lying on the ground, Mr Kuyt came up to him and said "stand up, you fu**king prick". Mr Kuyt said "This is untrue. What I did say was something to the effect of "Stand up, stand up", as if to say that it had been a foul but he was making too much of it". The video footage did not show Mr Kuyt speaking to Mr Evra at this time, but Mr Kuyt admitted that he did so. The dispute is about what Mr Kuyt said, not about whether he said anything to Mr Evra at that time. Very little attention was paid to this dispute during the hearing, and we did not find it necessary in reaching our decision to make a finding about what Mr Kuyt had said to Mr Evra. 

On the surface it seems understandable that the Panel did not pay great attention to the above. However it should have been deemed necessary as it would have gone a long way to determining whether Evra was a credible witness or not. In this case one of Kuyt or Evra was lying.

115. Mr Kuyt gave a slightly different version from Mr Marriner, Mr Evra and Mr Giggs. He said that after the goal kick he was close to Mr Evra and said "Come on, let's move on, let's keep going with the game" and touched Mr Evra just on the arm. According to Mr Kuyt, Mr Evra reacted aggressively and smashed his arm away and at that point, the referee having seen the incident, called Mr Evra to him and booked him. Mr Kuyt said that he was very close to Mr Evra and the referee at this time. He said he was "absolutely certain" that he heard Mr Evra say that the referee was only booking him because he was black.

116. We found the evidence of Mr Marriner on this point to be credible and plausible. He recalled Mr Evra telling him that he was being called black. This is consistent with Mr Evra's evidence of what he told Mr Marriner at that time, and also with Mr Giggs' evidence of what Mr Evra said to him shortly afterwards. In light of this, we reject Mr Kuyt's evidence that Mr Evra said that the referee was only booking him because he was black, however certain Mr Kuyt was that he heard it. Moreover, it would make no sense in the circumstances for Mr Evra to accuse the referee of only booking him because he was black. Not only had Mr Evra pushed Mr Kuyt away, which he is likely to have realised had led to his booking, but his concern at that stage was that he had been called black (bearing in mind that, at the very least, Mr Suarez admits having called Mr Evra "negro" by this stage of the game).

So here the Panel has emphatically rejected what Kuyt said he heard, despite Kuyt’s absolutely certainty. Again there’s nothing wrong with the Panel not accepting this given their explanation next to the chain of events. But when you go back a few paragraphs you see this:

112. The evidence of Mr Marriner about this incident was as follows. In the 65th minute of the game, he had to issue a caution to Mr Evra after he saw him push Mr Kuyt in the chest following a coming together. Mr Evra was clearly upset and mentioned that he was being called "black". Mr Marriner did not hear whether Mr Evra said who was calling him "black" and he did not understand what Mr Evra was referring to at the time. Mr Evra made no other comment to the referee.

So the Panel decided that Marriner’s statement which included words such as “did not hear whether” and “did not understand what Mr Evra was referring to at the time”, was more credible and plausible than Dirk Kuyt’s in which he stated that he was “absolutely certain” about what he had heard.

The report does not state whether any video footage was used to observe reactions, or even the location and various proximities of Marriner and Kuyt during this incident.

It is conceivably possible that Dirk Kuyt lied about both occasions, but the importance of what Kuyt did allege would be massively significant to Evra’s own credibility. As the Panel eventually decided to find Suarez guilty because they found Evra more credible, why did they not shine more of a light on two instances that could have told them a lot about Evra’s credibility, or lack of it?

Perhaps if Kuyt had told a groundsman he had heard it, it would make it more credible to the Panel?


4. The fact that Evra was provided with video footage while Suarez was not 

The Panel make great reference to how Suarez looked very uncomfortable and inconsistent in his testimony, in comparison to the assured and consistent Evra. However the report itself reveals that Evra was given access to video footage to help him with his testimony, made soon after the alleged incident. Suarez was interviewed almost 3 weeks after the events, without being given access to the same video footage.

11. On Thursday 20 October, Ms Kennedy, the Head of Off-Field Regulation and a member of the Regulatory Legal Team at the FA, interviewed Mr Evra in Manchester. Mr Evra was asked to give further details about what had happened during the match, which he did. This included mentioning the names of other players who, so Mr Evra thought, might be able to give relevant evidence. 

12. During the interview, the FA and Mr Evra watched some video footage of the match. Mr Evra pointed out to the FA, by reference to the video footage, when it was during the match that Mr Suarez made the comments about which Mr Evra had complained. This information enabled the FA to ask broadcasters to provide video footage of what appeared to be the key moments of the game, so far as Mr Evra's complaint was concerned. This video footage was provided in due course. It contained material which was not broadcast, including footage of the exchanges in the penalty area in the 63rd minute taken from a number of different camera angles.

So Evra was interviewed FIVE days after the match with the benefit of video footage.

13. The FA arranged to meet Mr Suarez to obtain his account of what had taken place between him and Mr Evra during the match. Ms Kennedy interviewed Mr Suarez on 2 November in Liverpool. Mr Suarez was accompanied by an interpreter from the Club (Mr Adrian McGrath), Ms Ward and Ms Wignall. An independent professional interpreter (Mr Hugo Pinero) was also present. On the same day, the FA also interviewed Mr Kenny Dalglish (the Liverpool manager), Mr Damien Comolli (the Liverpool Director of Football), Mr Ray Haughan (the Liverpool Team Administration Manager) and Mr Kuyt. The interviews were recorded and transcripts were produced. 

So, contrastingly, Suarez was not interviewed until EIGHTEEN days after the match, with the Report making no reference to him having had the benefit of video footage during the interview. The fact that Suarez had not been given access to video footage during this interview, is later confirmed in the report:

311. Later in the interview, Mr Suarez was told that the footage showed him touching Mr Evra's arm. Mr Suarez had not said anything about touching Mr Evra's arm when he had given his account of what happened earlier in the interview. He was asked if he could remember what he said. His response was "Perhaps I said to him three times "It was a foul".” 



5. Inconsistencies in Suarez’s testimony 

These discrepancies in Suarez's evidence were important factors for the Panel in their deciding that Suarez gave “unreliable” evidence.

316. There were, thus, three changes in this account from what Mr Suarez had said in his 2 November interview: (1) Previously he had said that this exchange took place when they were walking away after the referee had spoken to them, whereas now it was said to have occurred simultaneously with the referee blowing his whistle and before he spoke to them. (2) Previously he had said that the exchange took place in the context of Mr Suarez saying sorry to Mr Evra as required by the referee, whereas now nothing was said about Mr Suarez apologising. (3) Previously Mr Suarez said that he believed that Mr Evra's comment that Mr Suarez should not touch him was a reference to Mr Suarez putting his hand on the back of Mr Evra's head, whereas now it was said to be a reference to the pinching on the goal line.

Change number 1:
This is a change in his testimony, but a very slight one in terms of time, in fact a matter of seconds.

Change number 2:
Again, something which seems completely inconsequential.

Change number 3:
Why would Suarez changing his mind about what Evra may have “thought”, be used as a stick to beat him with? Indeed it's shown elsewhere in the report that Evra himself did not even remember being pinched (Point 95), so surely its equally possible that Suarez also forgot about this until seeing it in the video footage and the importance randomly later placed on the pinching as racially motivated by the Panel (Point 73).

These changes that Suarez is accused of making are there, but they seem very slight and understandable discrepancies, far from the picture of Suarez as deliberately making things up to get away with it that the Panel’s report portrays.


6. Testimonies from players and club officials and their treatment by the Panel  

Another key part of the Panel’s argument that Suarez’s testimony was inconsistent and unreliable came from the testimonies of Dirk Kuyt and Damien Comolli when describing events in the aftermath of the match. Points 282 – 290 do point out a discrepancy between what Comolli and Kuyt had thought Suarez had said to them and what Suarez now claims to have said.

It is true that this requires better explanation and the report does not reveal whether this discrepancy was a fair mistake or whether Liverpool were able to adequately explain it. However the Panel chose to ignore even more glaringly inconsistent testimonies about conversations on the day, in relation to events that happened in the Manchester Utd dressing room:

Valencia: “Negro, no hablos conmigo” (Point 121) 
Hernandez: “No voy a platicar contigo porque eres negro" (Point 122) 
Nani: “Nigger”, “negro”, or “preto”, “I cannot remember which” (Point 123) 
Anderson: “No hablo con negro” (Point 124) 

All 4 players gave the above, differing accounts of what Suarez allegedly said.

Valencia’s statement also corroborates Suarez’s testimony that he said “Negro, don’t talk to me”, possibly with Negro at the end, rather than saying “I don’t talk to Blacks”.

The very next paragraph of the report reads as follows:

125. Mr Evra said in evidence that some of the other players could see that he was upset and asked him what was wrong. He said that Mr Suarez had called him a nigger and said that he had kicked him because of that. Mr Evra said that he told the other players that Mr Suarez had said "porque tu eres negro". 

So Evra claimed that he told them two separate things (one of which being an accusation he later retracted - more to follow later on that) but NONE of his teammates can actually corroborate this.


7. Suarez and the arm pinching 

Another thing which the Panel used to support their assertion that Suarez was unreliable, was the arm pinching sequence.
Point 95 of the report shows that Evra himself did not initially even remember it, but later felt it was racially motivated:

95. Mr Evra said that as Mr Suarez was speaking he reached out to touch Mr Evra's arm, gesturing at his skin. Mr Evra said that Mr Suarez was drawing attention to the colour of Mr Evra's skin. This gesture is clearly shown on the video footage, just as Mr Kuyt comes between them. It seemed to us that Mr Suarez reached out and pinched Mr Evra's left forearm. In cross-examination, Mr Evra said that at the time he did not realise that Mr Suarez had pinched his arm. He was more focused on his lips and what he was saying. Mr Evra only realised that Mr Suarez had touched his arm in this way when he saw the video footage later.

Here is what the “Language experts” used at the hearing say about the arm pinching:

185. Mr Evra stated that Mr Suarez touched his arm at this stage, "indicating my skin". Mr Suarez's action is difficult to interpret; it looks like a pinch, intended perhaps to annoy or provoke. The experts were not aware of any River Plate-specific meaning attached to this gesture. It was by no means clear to the experts that this was a reference to skin colour, but it might have been. In the experience of Peter Wade, in Colombia people may touch their own forearms to indicate their own skin colour or when issues of skin colour are being discussed or when they are indicating that skin colour was at issue in some incident, the gesture is usually to rub the forearm with the forefinger; the gesture is not used on someone else. In the context of all the previous usages of "negro" and "negros", however, it is very possible that this gesture was a way of highlighting Mr Evra's skin colour and would therefore constitute a racially offensive gesture. 

So pinching the arm is not something known as a racist gesture but it could be a racist gesture. Surely if they were working to the “balance of probabilities” rule, the Panel should have agreed that its unlikely that the pinching was in reference to skin colour. The Panel also seems to come to the conclusion that even if Suarez was guilty of saying the words he was accused of, then the pinching alone would similarly indicate that guilt.

246. Mr Greaney cross-examined Mr Suarez about this paragraph in Mr Suarez's witness statement, just after showing Mr Suarez a clip of the goalmouth incident. The extract from the transcript below omits the translation of the questions into Spanish, and Mr Suarez's answers in Spanish. The answers given below are the interpreter's translation of Mr Suarez's answers in Spanish.  

GREANEY: Mr Suarez, the first thing I would like to ask you, now that we have seen those again, is: is it correct, as you say in  paragraph 27 of your witness statement, that you were trying to defuse or calm down the situation in the goal mouth?
SUAREZ: That's why I was explaining to him that it was a normal foul.

GREANEY: Let me be as clear as I can. Was your aim, when you were in the goal mouth, and speaking to Mr Evra, to calm down the situation?
SUAREZ: I wasn't thinking about speaking to anyone. He was the one to come to me and speak to me.

GREANEY: What we want to know, or at least I do, is what was in your mind? Was it in your mind to try to calm down the situation?
SUAREZ: He was asking me, "Why did you kick me?" Those were football conversations, and I replied, "This is a normal foul. What do you want me to do?"

GREANEY: Do you see paragraph 27 of your statement? Does it read: "I was trying to defuse or calm the situation"?
SUAREZ: By the gesture I was doing with my hands, I could show that I was trying to explain the situation, because these are conversations that you have in the field.

GREANEY: Mr Suarez, I have to suggest to you that my question is really a very simple one. In the goal mouth, and in particular as you pinched the skin of Mr Evra, do you say you were trying to calm the situation?
SUAREZ: Not after the pinch, because he was saying that he was going to hit me.

GREANEY: I'll just make one more attempt, and then we will move on. In your statement, over which we have understood you took some care, you have said of the pinching: "I was trying to defuse the situation." All I wish to know is whether that is true or not.
SUAREZ: I was not trying to calm down the situation, but trying to explain to Evra why I was doing this foul, and when - then he replied, "I'm going to hit you", and I was trying to show him that he was not untouchable, not in the foul and not by the gesture that I did with the - by the pinch I was doing to his arm, that he wasn't untouchable."

The Panel concluded that Suarez was not trying to defuse the situation:

249. What concerned us also was that Mr Suarez should have made what we considered to be such an unarguable assertion in his witness statement, ie that the pinching was an attempt to defuse the situation when it plainly was not. 

However, the report shows that the line of questioning that Mr Greaney takes does not involve the pinching of the arm until towards the end. Suarez seemingly believes that he is being questioned on the situation in general, and he answers on the basis that it was established that he was generally being conciliatory. Only then does Greaney refer to the arm pinching. The Panel does not entertain the possibility that Suarez was being conciliatory up until the arm pinching, which is what Suarez actually says. Instead the conclusion the panel draws is that Suarez was never being conciliatory, and they neglect to acknowledge the differentiation Suarez applies to events before and events after the pinch.

It also seems very unfair to describe the assertion that Suarez was not acting in a conciliatory manner as “unarguable” given that the entire conversation was inaudible, and ignores the fact that any aggressive confrontation can involve moments of attempted conciliation.

Finally buried in Point 384, the Panel does conclude that the pinching was: “simply an attempt by Mr Suarez to aggravate Mr Evra. It had no particular connotation related to Mr Evra's ethnic origin, colour or race.” 
If this was the case, then why did they not treat the whole sequence with the same irrelevance as they treated the Kuyt and Evra confrontation?


8. Inconsistencies in Evra’s accusation against Suarez relating to the actual word and its frequency 

This section highlights the inconsistencies in Evra’s accusation. The accusation varies from the use of the N-word, negro, 5 times, and 10 times.

99. Mr Evra's evidence is that up to this point Mr Suarez had used the word "negro" or “negros” five times in the goalmouth: "Because you are black", "I don't speak to blacks" and "Okay, blackie, blackie, blackie".

The above is Evra’s final testimony on the word used and its frequency.

134. Mr Haughan told us that he heard Sir Alex say "I want to make a complaint because Suarez has called him (meaning Evra) a nigger five times." Mr Haughan heard the referee ask Sir Alex to close the door and the door was closed. 

Remember this was also used by the Panel as evidence that Suarez must have said it to Evra, despite this being a completely different word allegedly used.

Later, Evra spoke to French TV, where he stated that Suarez had said something 10 times:

159. Mr Evra added, in his supplemental statement, that when he answered the question, he mentioned that a word had been said to him ten times. He told us that he did not mean this in the literal sense, it was just a way of talking. In French, he said, it is common to say something like "more than 10 times" but for you not to mean that it was actually over 10 times. It was just a figure of speech. 

160. When Mr Comolli gave evidence, Mr McCormick asked him whether that evidence from Mr Evra about the phrase ten times accorded with Mr Comolli's knowledge as a Frenchman of the French language and French behaviour. His answer was: not in these circumstances. He said that if his daughter asked him for a toy for Christmas and she says it five, six, seven times, he might say "You already told me ten times". But, in those circumstances (referring to Mr Evra giving an interview after the game), nobody in the French language will say that (ie ten times) because it's too important. You have to be precise in what you say. 

The Panel sided with Evra:

281. We find that Mr Evra's use of the phrase "ten times" was a figure of speech and not meant to be taken literally. In circumstances where he was angry and upset after the game, he had only spoken to Canal+ about this topic off the record, they had nevertheless asked him about it when filming (contrary to his request that they not do so), and he was using what appears to be a common figure of speech in France, there is nothing in the Canal+ interview which materially undermines Mr Evra's evidence. 

This means that the Panel rejected Damien Comolli’s testimony on the meaning of French, but elsewhere treat him as an expert in Spanish, despite France being his native country. Again we see the Panel accepting and rejecting individual testimonies without consistency.

Anyway, regardless of 5 times (which people saying it was 5 times - despite it being a different word allegedly used - as evidence that Suarez must have said it on those occasions) and 10 times (which was deemed irrelevant), the Panel somehow found Suarez guilty of saying “negro” SEVEN times:

392. In total, Mr Suarez used the word "negro" or "negros" seven times in the penalty area. On each occasion, the words were insulting. On each occasion, Mr Suarez breached Rule E3(1). Accordingly, the charge is proved. 

It should be noted that this is the first time anywhere in the report (page 100 of 115) that ANYONE has asserted that Suarez said “negro” seven times, an assertion that does not match with Evra’s “impressive” and “consistent” testimony.

Another issue here is that Mr Haughan’s account of the words of Alex Ferguson is actually the first instance that anyone had stated that Suarez had used the word more than once until Evra’s interview with Canal+

114. Mr Giggs gave evidence before us. He said that he was reasonably close to the referee and after he had shown Mr Evra the yellow card, Mr Giggs approached the referee and asked him why he had booked Mr Evra. The referee said to Mr Giggs "just calm Patrice down". Mr Giggs then moved away from the referee and towards Mr Evra. It was obvious to Mr Giggs from looking at Mr Evra that he was upset. He said that Mr Evra did not seem quite with it, you might call it red mist. Mr Giggs said to Mr Evra "what's happened?". Mr Evra replied "he called me black". Mr Giggs assumed that Mr Evra was speaking about Mr Kuyt since he had just been booked for some kind of tussle with Mr Kuyt. Mr Giggs said to Mr Evra "did the ref hear it?", to which Mr Evra replied "I don't think so". Mr Giggs then told Mr Evra to calm down and not get himself sent off. 

This was used by the Panel as evidence that Suarez must have said the alleged words, but we actually see that Evra confirms Suarez’s account that he said it only once. It should also be noted (relevant to a discussion on Evra’s agitated state later on)that Evra’s own captain felt that Evra was so agitated that he might get himself sent off.

We see similar confirmation that Evra actually supports Suarez’s account through Andre Marriner’s testimony AND match report:

103. Mr Evra's evidence was that while he was walking towards the referee he said "ref, ref, he just called me a f**king black". He said that he did not know whether the referee heard his comment. The referee said something like "Calm down, Patrice, the game has been brilliant, stop the pushing between you and Suarez, the game is going well. 

106. We found Mr Marriner's account to be plausible and credible. He did take control in that the players listened to what he had to say and did not say anything back to him. The fact that Mr Marriner did not hear what Mr Evra said is not inconsistent with Mr Evra's evidence that, as he walked towards the referee, he said "ref, ref, he just called me a f**king black" 

Evra does not seem to report to Marriner that Suarez said the word more than once after the match either.

131. Mr Marriner gave evidence about this in his witness statement (the contents of which, it will be recalled, were also accepted by Mr Suarez). He said that Sir Alex told him that he wished to register a formal complaint about a comment that was made to Mr Evra by a Liverpool player. Sir Alex asked Mr Marriner to write down what they were about to say. Mr Marriner then asked Mr Dowd to note down what Sir Alex and Mr Evra wished to say. Mr Evra, speaking in English, then told Mr Marriner that during a coming together in the penalty area in the second half of the match, Mr Suarez said to Mr Evra, "I don't talk to you because you niggers". Mr Marriner told Sir Alex and Mr Evra that he would include the incident in his report. He also told them that he needed to speak to the Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, in order to seek Mr Suarez's version of events. 

The referee’s report:

152. Mr Marriner wrote up his report that evening. He referred to the notes that Mr Dowd had taken, which Mr Dowd had given to Mr Marriner before they left the ground. Mr Dowd told us that the notes consisted of 4 or 5 bullet points where he had roughly recorded what had been said. He did not write down exactly what everyone had said; he had just paraphrased the main points. Once he had finished his report, Mr Marriner threw away Mr Dowd's notes. 

153. Mr Marriner's report was contained in an Extraordinary Incident Report Form which he filed with the FA. His report is in the following terms: 

"I have to bring to your attention an unsavoury event which happened today and was reported to me in my dressing room after the above game.  
Sir Alex Ferguson and Patrice Evra entered my dressing room to register an official complaint about a comment made to Patrice Evra by Liverpool player Luis Suarez.  
During a coming together in the penalty area in the second half of play, Luis Suarez is alleged to have said to Patrice Evra 'I don't talk to you because you niggers'. 

I said to Sir Alex and Patrice that I would include the incident in my report but needed to speak to Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish to seek Luis Suarez' version of events. 
Kenny Dalglish entered my dressing room at my request and having been told about the incident responded with a different version of events. He said Suarez had responded with 'you are black' having first been taunted with 'you are South American' by Evra. 

Liverpool Director of football Damien Comolli then entered the dressing room to confirm Suarez' version of events as he speaks fluent Spanish. 
Evra first said 'you are South American' to Suarez who responded with 'Tues Negro' which translates 'you are Black'. Damien Comolli went on to say he thinks it got lost in translation and at no time did Suarez say the word 'Niggers'. 

I confirmed that this incident would be reported." 

This confirms that the original accusation was that Suarez had made the alleged comment just once, corroborated by Andre Marriner. (My emphasis on the use of the singular “a comment” rather than the plural “comments”).

The evidence presented in the report by the Panel actually shows that that until Evra’s interview with Canal+ he had not said that Suarez said “negro” more than once; supporting Suarez’s version of events, with Mr Ferguson actually being the first person to claim that Suarez had said it more than once, a comment he even later withdrew (see point 277).


9. Evra and the N-word 

In Points 90 to 95, Evra initially accused Suarez of saying “n**ger” rather than “negro”. Liverpool and their management and Suarez are then informed that Suarez has been accused of using the word “n**ger”, seen in Points 135, 144 and 150. This is even the wording used in Andre Marriner’s match report, in Point 153.

So Evra’s initial accusation was that Suarez had referred to him as a n**ger.

Evra later withdraws saying that he thought negro meant n**ger, not black. (Point 271 – 272) But Point 271 also raises another flaw in the testimony and the Panel’s line of thought:

271. When, shortly after the match, he went to see the referee with the manager, Mr Evra complained that Mr Suarez had said "I don't talk to you because you n**gers". Mr Evra told us that he believed, from the moment he heard Mr Suarez use the word “negro”, that this meant n**ger. The Commission asked Mr Evra why, then, did he not tell the referee that he had been called n**ger, as opposed to black. Mr Evra's answer was that even when he pronounced the word "n**gers", it was not a word he liked to use. He added that maybe it was also because he was speaking in English, that "black" was the English word in his mind, and he felt he had done enough to complain by telling the referee that he had been called black. 

The Panel wanted to know why Evra had accused Suarez of saying n**ger after the match, but black during the match when speaking to the referee. Evra stated that it was because he did not like using the word “n**ger”. However see in Point 128 that he has no problem saying it in front of Mr Ferguson, and there is also a Youtube video that shows that Evra is more than comfortable using the word. The clip was broadcast nationally in France, and is featured in an earlier article on this blog, highlighting Evra’s comfort with using the word in front of cameras, knowing it would reach large audiences.

Its also strange that Evra had the presence of mind to avoid using a term he finds as very offensive, when clearly agitated and angry, but is okay with using it later on after the match when presumably calmer.

The Panel did not feel that any of the above made Evra’s testimony questionable in any way.

Its also worth noting that in Evra’s initial accusation about what Suarez said (on the pitch to Marriner)he does say 'black' rather than 'n**ger'. This could suggest that Evra was aware of the actual meaning of “negro”. Given that the report itself says that, “Mr Evra said that he is not exactly fluent in Spanish but that he can easily converse in Spanish.” (Point 87) This shows that Evra feels comfortable conversing in Spanish (as evidenced by the insult he throws at Suarez, “concha de tu hermana”, also point 87) so applying the Panel’s 'balance of probabilities' Evra was likely aware of what 'negro' actually means.


10. Evra’s agitated state 

One point that the defence attempted to draw attention to was Evra’s state of agitation. Where the Panel believe Evra’s agitation is evidence that Suarez racially abused him, the defence attempted to point out that Evra was clearly angry throughout the game. One example given was during the coin toss before the match had even begun:

329. The first of these was the coin toss. Mr Evra was seen to dispute the outcome of the coin toss with the referee. Mr Marriner explained that he used a FIFA coin which is blue on one side and yellow on the other. He asked Mr Evra, as the visiting captain, to call the colour. Mr Marriner tossed the coin, it came down yellow, and he awarded it to Steven Gerrard who elected to stay in their current ends. Manchester United had kick off. Mr Evra remonstrated that he had called correctly but, Mr Marriner said, he had not. Mr Evra then spoke to Ryan Giggs about it, and Mr Marriner walked over to Mr Evra to assure him that he (Mr Marriner) had got it right. Mr Evra's evidence was that when such a coin was used, he always called yellow given that the alternative, blue, is a Manchester City colour, which he would never call. The toss came down yellow and so Mr Evra knew that he had won it. He particularly wanted to change ends at the start, he explained to the referee that he had called yellow, and why he had done so. Mr Evra was angry but the referee did not change his mind. 

According to the Panel’s belief in the reliability of Andre Marriner, Evra either could not remember what colour he chose, or he must have lied about it afterwards. This shows that he is either an unreliable witness, or is willing to lie to gain an advantage. Video footage also shows that he is just as agitated in this instance as he his when Suarez is believed to have racially abused him x amount of times.

As we saw earlier, Evra’s own captain Ryan Giggs felt that Evra was so agitated he was in danger of being sent off (Point 114).

The Panel rejected this possibility, Point 336 reads:

"We considered the submission to be unrealistic and we rejected it. It did not accord with our assessment of Mr Evra, as a clear, calm, and consistent witness."

This is extraordinary. They are basically saying they concluded Evra was a reliable witness by rejecting any evidence that he wasn't reliable on the basis that he was a reliable witness.

Which brings us neatly to the next point.


11. The Panel’s inconsistent treatment on character 

The Panel above reject the possibility that Evra could be unreliable, or even a liar, because he was a clear, calm and consistent witness.

In comparison, this is what the report says of Luis Suarez:

343. Mr Suarez's background as described by him in his statement raised doubts in our minds, in the first instance, as to whether he would ever make the alleged comments. We recognised that Mr Suarez's background together with the seriousness of the Charge, meant that a greater burden of evidence was required to prove the Charge. We formed the view that, overall, the preponderance of the evidence favoured the FA's case. 

344. We took into account the fact that it is a real albeit unattractive trait of human nature that we all act from time to time, to greater or lesser degrees, in ways which may be out of character. This is especially so when we feel under pressure, or challenged, or provoked, or pushed into a corner. We do and say things that we are not proud of and regret, and that we might try and deny, sometimes even to ourselves. We occasionally do or say things that we would be embarrassed to admit to family or friends. It is not inconsistent to have black colleagues and friends and relatives, and yet say things to strangers or acquaintances about race or colour that we would not say directly to those closer to us. 

The Panel states that a person with Luis Suarez’s background is unlikely to say the things he is accused of, but anybody can do something they can regret in the heat of the moment.

On the balance of probabilities they found that Suarez could have racially abused someone in the heat of the moment despite having a black grandfather, but on the balance of probabilities it seems more likely that Evra himself made the accusation in the heat of the moment, especially given the clear evidence of his agitation before and throughout the entire match.

The Panel also state that Evra does not think Suarez is a racist (Point 336). Surely this again makes Evra an unreliable witness as the act of racially abusing someone 5 or 10 times as Evra alleged is surely the act of a racist.

Those who have read the report throughout have noticed the stark contrast in the tone used to describe Evra in comparison to Suarez. This is understandable as the report is attempting to explain why they believed Evra and not Suarez, even if they didn’t do a very good job of it. One thing the report states is that:

336. "We considered it improbable that Mr Evra would act in such a dishonest way in order to damage the reputation of a fellow professional whose footballing skills he admires, with whom he had had no previous run-ins, and who he does not think is a racist." 

It was strange that they should describe Evra in such a way, when a few years ago another Independent panel described Patrice Evra as follows:

"We find Mr Evra's description exaggerated... There was no good reason for Mr Evra to have run over and barged Mr Griffin as he did. It was unnecessarily and gratuitously aggressive of Mr Evra... Mr Evra's suggestion that he was concerned about Mr Strudwick's safety is far fetched. They were two grown men having an apparently strong verbal disagreement but no more than that. The clear implication by Mr Evra that Mr Griffin's pitchfork gave some reason for concern about Mr Strudwick's safety is ridiculous...We find Mr Evra's account exaggerated and unreliable. It is an attempt to justify a physical intervention by him which cannot reasonably be justified..." 



12. The Panel’s inconsistent application of literal translations 

Another inconsistency in the treatment of evidence by the Panel arises in their use of the Language experts. We see that Evra uses the insult “Concha de tu hermana” towards Suarez, and this is how the Panel interpret the Language experts’ testimony with regard to this:

178. Mr Evra stated that the goalmouth incident started when he addressed Mr Suarez, beginning with the phrase "Concha de tu hermana". According to the experts, the literal translation is "your sister's c*nt" and it can be taken as a general swear word expressing anger, although the word "concha" is not as taboo as the English word "c*nt". It is thus equivalent to "f*cking hell" or "f*ck me". If directed at someone in particular, it can also be understood as "(you) son of a bitch". 

The literal translation of this insult is “Your sister’s c*nt”, although the word “concha” is not as offensive in Spanish as the word “c*nt” is in English. This means that it can thus be interpreted as “f*ck me”, “f*cking hell” or “son of a bitch”. This is later clarified by the Panel in Point 374:

374. We remind ourselves that Mr Evra started the conversation with an offensive phrase. Although the literal translation is particularly offensive, Mr Evra's use of the phrase should be understood in the sense of "f*cking hell" or "you son of a bitch", as the Spanish language experts suggest. 

The Panel have decided to apply the softer meaning of the phrase than the literal meaning. However consistency is not applied in their treatment of what Suarez is alleged to have said:

389. We remind ourselves that the test for a breach of Rule E3(1) is an objective test. That means that it is for us to form our own view as to whether Mr Suarez's words or behaviour were abusive or insulting. It is not necessary for the FA to prove that Mr Suarez intended his words or behaviour to be abusive or insulting. We are concerned with whether the words or behaviour were abusive or insulting when used in a football match played in England under the FA Rules.  

Once again we see one rule being applied to Evra, and another being applied to Suarez.


It is also worth noting that the language expert we consulted totally and fundamentally disagreed that “concha de tu hermana” could be anything other than an extremely strong and inflammatory insult.


13. Flaws in the treatment of Spanish Language  

Below are also the thoughts of an independent expert in Spanish language.
A professor at an Ivy League university in the United States whose name is available by request, he is also a native of Montevideo.
He has posted these thoughts online and I couldn’t do them any more justice by attempting to rephrase them.

It should be noted that we did not wish to question the integrity of the language experts, as the club did not. However given that the report is riddled with inconsistencies as shown above, it’s quite possible that the report did not give a fair account of what the language experts said. It’s quite possible that the Panel have been as selective with the language experts’ testimony as they have with all the other witness testimonies.

*On another note, one of experts used “has experience of Spanish usage mainly in Colombia, Mexico and Spain” (Point 164). The nearest of those 3 places to Montevideo is Colombia, some 3,000 miles away. Incidentally, the distance between Liverpool and Moscow is considerably less than that.

What follows are the words of the Spanish language expert.

I will quote first the FA document on the key point:


90. Mr Evra's evidence was that, in response to his question "Why did you kick me?", Mr Suarez replied "Porque tu eres negro". Mr Evra said that at the time Mr Suarez made that comment, he (Mr Evra) understood it to mean "Because you are a ******". He now says that he believes the words used by Mr Suarez mean "Because you are black".


I read the whole Commission report. I am a Uruguayan born in Montevideo, currently a university Literature and Language professor in the US. It is clear to me that the Spanish language reported by Evra is inconsistent with Luis Suárez’s way of speaking Spanish. The key is that Evra makes Suárez to appear using forms of Spanish Suárez just wouldn't use. Suárez cannot speak as Evra reported him speaking. 


This is, I believe, key for the case and, if acknowledged, it would destroy Evra’s credibility. The fact is that, even though the Panel was advised by the experts they consulted that the word chosen by Suarez as alleged by Evra was “odd”, they did not pay the due attention to this observation. They decided to believe that a very tiny, highly unlikely possibility of Suárez talking in such a way as reported by Evra actually happened. They decided not to give any importance to the essential fact that Suárez would never say “porque tu eres negro” (that is just not a way of speaking in the Rio de la Plata area), much less “porque tu es negro” or “tues negro” (as Comolli stated), which are grammatically incorrect or just do not exist in Spanish.  

You don’t use the verb “ser” (to be) in the Rio de la Plata area that way. Luis Suarez would have said “porque sos negro”. And we of course don’t say “por que tu es negro” (of Comolli’s testimony) because this is no Spanish syntax. In that sentence “es” is being wrongly conjugated in the third person of singular while it should have been conjugated in the second, “sos” (and never, I repeat, “eres”). Hence, I don't know what Comolli heard from Suarez after the match, but I am positive he got it wrong.  

Evra reports Suárez speaking in words that Suarez simply would not use, but the Panel accepts his word as more reliable than Suarez’s.


That said, let’s pay some attention to the sloppy way in which the Panel has managed the Spanish language in their report.


138. Mr Comolli said in his witness statement that Mr Suarez told him nothing happened. He said that there was one incident where he said sorry to Mr Evra and Mr Evra told him "Don't touch me, South American" to which Mr Comolli thought Mr Suarez said he had replied "Por que, tu eres negro?". (...) Mr Comolli confirmed under cross-examination that he believed that what he was told by Mr Suarez in this meeting was that the words he had used to Mr Evra translated as "Why, because you are black".


“Por que, tu eres negro?”…. ? This makes no sense. It is not Spanish. “Por qué” means “why” (and not “because” in this case). It is incorrectly spelled by the Panel in their official report (they don’t seem to be careful with Spanish, since they treat Spanish in such a careless way throughout the report, despite the essential fact that this sentence is the result of a translation of a conversation being held in Spanish). The expression “Por que, tu eres negro?” cannot be translated in a way that makes sense. Literally, if I had to translate it, it would be something like this: “why, you are black?” I have no idea what that could mean.


And Mr Comolli’s version is very different from Suarez’s own statement. Let’s see what Suarez himself reported:


141. Mr Suarez's version of this conversation was as follows. He said that Mr Comolli explained to him that Sir Alex Ferguson and Mr Evra had complained to the referee that Mr Suarez had racially insulted Mr Evra five times during the game. Mr Comolli asked Mr Suarez to tell him what happened. Mr Suarez told him that Mr Evra had said to him "Don't touch me, South American". Mr Suarez had said "Por que negro?". Mr Suarez told Mr Comolli that this was the only thing he had said."


What Suarez stated makes perfect sense in the Spanish we speak in the Rio de la Plata area – even though, again, it is poorly transcribed by the Panel. They should have written: “¿Por qué, negro?” Then, I do not why, the Panel believes in the incorrect Spanish of a non-native speaker in Comolli, instead of crediting Suarez about his own words.


The linguistic abilities of the Panel are completely under question here, and they seem to have been key in their grounding of the case. Let’s see how lousy their understanding and use of Spanish language is, by looking in detail at just another part of the reasons alleged by the Panel:


284 (...) Mr Comolli said to the referee that Mr Evra first said "you are South American" to Mr Suarez who responded with "Tues Negro" which translates as "you are black".


It is appalling that the Panel, after careful consideration of everything, would even consider relevant whatever Mr Comolli might have understood from Suárez, when it is clear Mr Comolli can barely understand what he himself is trying to say in Spanish. I say this because “tues” is no Spanish word. And “tues negro” cannot be translated at all —let alone into what the Panel says it means. It’s simply not a Spanish expression, so it cannot be “translated”. Comolli’s recollection from his conversation with Suárez just after the match is unreliable. A pity since it arrived to the Panel jury through a Liverpool official, but the language is plain wrong.


In summary: Suárez could not have even said “tu eres negro”, which would be grammatically correct in Madrid, for example, because in the Rio de la Plata area we would never say “tu eres negro”, but “vos sos negro”. 

Despite that, the Panel makes it stand, transcribes it in their report, and substantiate their conviction on these words.


Reading Evra’s statement, I understand it could happen that Evra misunderstood Suárez at some point. When Suárez said “¿por qué, negro?”, Evra might have assumed that it was a racial insult, while Suárez—even in the heat of a discussion—could perfectly have said that as a way of normally expressing himself (not exactly to calm Evra down, but just because he normally would talk like that without thinking about it). This point is where the cultural clash seems more important, and it is working against Suárez because nobody in the jury seems to even start to understand the common way we use the term “negro” in the Rio de la Plata area. They heard their experts, and their experts explained the different options of our use of the word depending on different contexts and intentions. Then, the Panel just decided that the whole thing was an equally aggressive clash by both sides, and because of that, they concluded Suárez could have not used the "negro" word to Evra in a neutral way.  

Why? Their interpretation is not clear to me and doesn’t seem to be the only one possible. “¿Por qué, negro?” (after Evra said “Don’t touch me you South American”) is not offensive, but a question, and a very common one indeed, where “negro” is a neutral, unmarked word, not an adjective loaded with a negative connotation. And the most important issue here is that the term “negro” can be used in the midst of a heated discussion without carrying any racist connotation whatsoever. It works more or less like the term “pal” or “mate” in some contexts in English, a word that can indeed be used in the context of a potentially aggressive situation—for instance in a context of somebody being aggressively addressed by a total stranger who reacts by saying “take it easy, mate” or something of the sort. 

I completely understand why a British person or an American might not understand the tone or the intention from Suárez. But I myself can clearly understand the account of Suárez and it seems consistent to me. I hear it more as a common (unmarked and uncharged) address to Evra.


Finally, the whole verdict seems to be grounded on 3 elements: 


1) The Panel tends to believe Evra is more reliable than Suarez (a purely subjective element)
2) The Panel does not seem to have understood the Spanish language allegedly used - even though they grounded they verdict on their own interpretation of that very Spanish language.
3) They believe the word "negro" cannot be used just in a descriptive way in the context of an angry discussion -which means they don't really understand how we do use it in the Rio de la Plata area. This made them feel Suarez was unreliable and probably aggravated them.


A pity. The most important thing here has to do with proportion. Suárez’s name has been destroyed and now the Panel has shown there is NO OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE whatsoever to support Suarez saying any of the things Evra attributes to him, exception made of Evra’s own statement.”

181. The experts noted that the use of the verb form "porque tu eres negro" is not the most usual form for Montevidean Spanish, since the form of the verb "ser" most commonly used would be the "vos" form, that is "porque (vos) sos negro". Nevertheless, a small percentage of people from Montevideo do use the "tu" form (in contrast to Buenos Aires, where it is rarely used) or even a mixture of both.


I read and noticed that the panel noticed this. The problem is that they do not make anything out of it. The use of "tu" is very uncommon in Montevideo --basically a few individuals in the highest social layers, or people from the south-east of the country (and Suarez was born in the north-west part of it), and "porque tu eres negro" sounds utterly "literary". Evra makes Suarez to sound like an XIX century writer from Cuba or Mexico. No football player would talk like that. On the other hand, that is exactly the way Evra or anybody familiar with Spanish from Spain (not from Uruguay or Argentina) would have made the sentence up if he had to invent it.


It is just totally implausible that Suarez used that language. It seems to me that their experts called the Panel's attention to this key issue, and they just did not apply it correctly and dismissed it as unimportant. But it is important.


87. Mr Evra and Mr Suarez are agreed that they spoke to each other in Spanish in the goalmouth. Mr Evra said that he is not exactly fluent in Spanish but that he can easily converse in Spanish. For Mr Suarez, Spanish is his native language as a Uruguayan. Mr Evra told us that he began the conversation by saying "Concha de tu hermana". Mr Evra's evidence was that this is a phrase used in Spanish like when you say "******* hell" in English, but the literal translation is "your sister's pussy". Mr Suarez did not hear Mr Evra say this. One of the video clips that we have seen, taken from a close up angle behind the goal, does appear to support Mr Evra's evidence that he started the conversation with this comment.


There is no room for interpretation. "La concha de tu hermana" is a very gruesome insult. It means literally "Your sister's c**t", and it is what you would say just before, say, getting in a fist fight or something--because there is no room for more words after such a violent verbal attack. 


Conclusion 

The sections above highlight, what we believe to be the most glaring inconsistencies within the Panel’s report. Numerous tweeters, blogs, and forum posters – both Liverpool supporters and also those unconnected to Liverpool including Manchester United supporters - from across the Globe, have pointed out additional inconsistencies and instances in which the conclusions do not appear to match the testimonies or evidence as presented in the 115 page report. Given the lack of corroborative evidence, despite numerous ‘witnesses’ in a crowded penalty area and tens of TV cameras and microphones covering the match, the only men who know for sure what occurred in this exchange are Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. There can be little doubt that they themselves may have had some difficulty recalling the exact events given both the pressurised atmosphere of a Liverpool – Manchester United match and the well-documented different linguistic backgrounds of the individuals involved which also probably explains, in part, the inconsistencies in many of the testimonies (including Mr Evra’s) documented in the report.

Given the serious nature of the allegation – a fact I think we can all agree upon – and the subsequent consequences for Mr Suarez of a guilty verdict (which are now all too apparent) is it acceptable or even just that ‘guilt’ can be determined on a “balance of probability” in this case? The FA have argued that this is a justified level and is the process outlined in their charter, however this is not a case of rescinding a red-card or reducing a sentence for a mistimed tackle. In passing a guilty verdict in this case the FA have effectively condemned a man to a lifetime sentence of being branded a racist. Does the nature and severity of the allegation and the subsequent consequences for Mr Suarez justify the “balance of probability” ‘test’? Those that administer justice require both common sense and a measure of responsibility in their proceedings – on the "balance of probability" it is clear to us and countless others that the FA have failed to use either and therefore failed to justify their role in adjudicating such an important case.

Thank you for taking the time to read our concerns. We ask for you to reflect on this case and the consequences for Mr Suarez, a man of mixed ethnicity who actively works to counter the very ‘crime’ that he has been found guilty of. Justice needs to be ‘seen to be done’ and in a case with consequences far beyond football it is clear to us that the FA have failed in both their moral and judicial duties with their handling of these unsubstantiated allegations.