I write to express my exasperation and dismay, principally with the FA Commission's written reasons for their judgement in the matter of Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra, but also with the manner in which it has been covered by the media. While I do not consider The Independent to be the most culpable in this respect, it is the newspaper with which I most strongly identify, and therefore, regrettably for you, also the natural outlet for me to vent my frustration.
I do not expect this letter to be published: not, I hasten to add, because I am harbouring any fears of conspiracy and suppression; rather, I believe that my letter is both ill-timed and over-long. Nonetheless, I hope to gain some catharsis from the process and beg your indulgence and pardon for the inconvenience.
Like The Independent blogger, Musa Okwonga, I am a long-standing Manchester United fan, and like him, I felt that objectivity would be best served by reserving judgement until the written report had been published. However, the conclusions we each drew from that report could not be more different.
I read the full text on Sunday 2nd January, and did so with a growing sense of indignation at what I perceived to be a wholly partial, and thoroughly flawed judgement. When I turned to the media on Monday 3rd, I fully expected the report to be excoriated; to be greeted with howls of derision and minutely dissected to reveal that, for all its heft, its arguments are as substantial as air. You may imagine, then, that I was a little surprised to find nothing but praise for "The commission's commendably exhaustive work..." (Ian Herbert, Mon. 2nd Jan.). Not one dissenting voice to mention that the Commission's unmentionables were dangling obscenely in plain view.
It is my view that the Commission relied on a slightly different sense of the word exhaust to ensure that few, if any, would have the stamina to refute their findings. I note that while they do provide a summary, this is suspended until the end of the report and does not, in my opinion, accurately summarise their findings. "Whether" (to co-opt one of their own phrases) "this was due to language difficulties or evasiveness was not entirely clear..." (para. 237). Any attempt to provide a thorough rebuttal of every flawed statement in the report would be wearisome to read and risks trying the patience of my audience. Therefore, I will confine myself to a detailed discussion of what I consider to be two of the most egregious errors in the Commission's findings, including along the way a selection of highlights from the report - sufficient, I hope, to cast doubt on James Lawton's claim that "The independent panel ... was never likely to expose itself to the charge of a serious miscarriage of justice." (Mon. 2nd Jan.).
The first of these two fatal flaws is the way that the Commission handled the question of probability (paras. 322-345). The second, and in my view more damaging, is the conclusion they reach on the sequence of events and the number of times which Mr Suarez used the word 'negro'.
In the first case, the Commission set out to establish whether it is more probable that Mr Evra would deliberately and maliciously invent an allegation of racial abuse which, if it were upheld "...would be extremely damaging to Mr Suarez, a fellow professional." (para. 327), or that Mr Suarez might, without being racist per se, give in to that "unattractive trait of human nature..." to "...do and say things that we are not proud of and regret, and that we might try and deny, sometimes even to ourselves." (para. 344).
In this, as with so much else in the report, the linguistic bias is inherent and obvious. The choice we are offered is not an even one. We may either accept the word of Mr Suarez, and thereby demonise Mr Evra and accept all of the unpleasant ramifications of that action, or accept the word of Mr Evra, all the while understanding that Mr Suarez acted foolishly and uncharacteristically in the heat of the moment. (Compare also the descriptions of the two parties in paragraphs 229-237. Mr Evra is given six paragraphs, starting with:
"Mr Evra has played for Manchester United and France for a number of years. He has captained both. He speaks a number of languages including Senegalese, French, Spanish, Italian and some Portuguese. He gave his evidence to us in English." (para. 229).
In contrast, Mr Suarez gets only three paragraphs, and we are introduced to him thus:
"Mr Suarez speaks little English. There were occasions during the hearing when he clearly understood a question in English because he gave a response in a few words of English or by a nod of the head. But these were few and far between." (para. 235)
There is no mention of his representing his country, nor of captaining Ajax. All we learn of his language skills is that they render him effectively mute in an English tribunal. That is, of course until para. 296 when it becomes necessary for the FA case to concede that "Mr Kuyt said that Mr Suarez speaks Dutch very well and so they always speak to each other in Dutch.")
All this, however, is more of an aside, and I am anxious to avoid the charge that I am simply playing word-games; nibbling at the edges of an otherwise sound judgement. What troubles me more is the Commission's bland rejection of Mr McCormick's submission that Mr Evra, already angry and "in shock", seized upon the one confessed use of the word 'negro' by Mr Suarez, and built, thereon, a fictitious but far more damning exchange.
The question of probability, in the opinion of the Commission, turns on the alleged use of the phrase 'No hablo con los negros' by Mr Suarez, and is reduced to a choice of inferences which they feel may be drawn from the "accepted fact that Mr Evra reported these comments to those individuals straight after the game." (para. 324). Those individuals being the referee, Mr Marriner, and four of Mr Evra's team-mates. The possible inferences offered to Mr McCormick (acting for Liverpool and Mr Suarez) are:
"(1) that Mr Evra was telling the truth and Mr Suarez had made this comment during the game; (2) that Mr Evra made it up, in which case one would have to ask why he had made it up, and how he had done so as soon as the game had finished; (3) that Mr Evra had misheard or misunderstood something that Mr Suarez said, in which case one would have to ask what Mr Suarez had said and how Mr Evra had misheard or misunderstood it; (4) that there was some other reasonable inference that we should draw, which was not immediately apparent to us." (para. 325)
Not surprisingly, Mr McCormick chose option (2), although I would contend that he might have been better served by availing himself of option (4), since by separating options (2) that Mr Evra made it up, and (3) that Mr Evra misheard or misunderstood something that Mr Suarez said, I believe that the Commission is once again endeavouring to polarise the debate: you may decide that Mr Evra invented a lie with no provocation, or you may decide that Mr Evra misheard an entirely different comment; you may not decide that Mr Evra heard the word 'negro' and became sufficiently incensed to embellish the tale of its use.
It is worth noting at this point, the Commission's curious understanding of the passage of time. Much effort is spent in the course of the report to establish that, once the Liverpool management had been apprised of the allegations, they were well aware of the gravity of the situation and that, for example:
"It would be surprising if, in asking Mr Suarez about a serious allegation and wanting to take care how the matter was dealt with, Mr Comolli did not carefully note the exact Spanish words that Mr Suarez used." (para. 295)
The fact that they were responding to as yet unspecified allegations, and doing so in a very brief space of time, in at least two different languages (three if one includes Mr Dalglish's sometimes impenetrable accent), does not appear to worry the Commission at all.
If they could be said to have expanded the time available to Mr Comolli et al., then it might appear that in Mr Evra's case, they were looking through the wrong end of the telescope, since they suggest that any false allegation would have to have been invented "as soon as the game had finished.". I would suggest that a more probable scenario might be that Mr Evra, who at the time believed the word 'negro' to mean something far more offensive than it actually does, may have spent the remaining half-hour of the match turning over the exchange in his mind, allowing it to fester until by the time he left the field "Hernandez saw that Mr Evra was angry and upset." (para. 122) and "Anderson said that Mr Evra was really angry in the dressing room." (para. 124). In fairness to the Commission, they do seem to have been aware of the absurdity of the statement in para. 325 above, so that by the time we reach para. 327, the language has changed to:
"At some point before entering the dressing room about 30 minutes later, during which time two goals were scored, Mr Evra invented the allegation that Mr Suarez had said 'I don't speak to blacks'."
Yet there still seems to be an implication that a football match, particularly one in which goals are scored, absorbs the mental faculties of a player to the extent that he cannot think about anything else, such as grievances he may feel. This is apparently true even of a player who by his own evidence was still in shock fully five minutes after a fairly routine tackle and felt the need to remonstrate with his assailant.
The Commission rejects Mr McCormick's submission in three places. The first two relate to supplementary evidence, advanced by Mr McCormick, "of Mr Evra's behaviour earlier in the game, and the frame of mind he was in." (para. 328). In their opinion:
"Mr McCormick relied on this evidence for two distinct purposes. First, as seen above, in relation to Mr Evra's alleged motivation of vengeance, Mr McCormick submitted, if we understood his argument correctly, that Mr Evra was wound up throughout the game and the foul plus the refusal to apologise by Mr Suarez tipped Mr Evra over the edge and he decided to seek vengeance. We rejected that submission. In cross-examination, Mr Marriner said that there was nothing in relation to Mr Evra that caused him concern up until the 63rd minute of the game. Effectively, Mr Marriner was saying that in none of the incidents to which Mr McCormick referred did Mr Evra's behaviour cause the referee any concern. That accords with our assessment of the evidence." (para. 333)
This then is the first rejection, based on the testimony of Mr Marriner. Let's look at the first of these incidents, the coin toss at the start of the match:
"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." (para. 329)
In my opinion, to adopt the Commission's approach, we may draw one of two inferences from this event. (1) that Mr Marriner misheard when Mr Evra said the word 'blue' and thought that he had said 'yellow' instead. The two words are, in my view, sufficiently dissimilar that such a mistake, given that he was expecting one of the two choices and not a random word from the entire English lexicon, might cast doubt on the infallibility of his subsequent testimony; (2) that Mr Evra, having called incorrectly, either convinced himself that he had called yellow, or stated falsely that he had done so, because "he particularly wanted to change ends". Either inference would give me pause before rejecting Mr McCormick's submission on the first ground. It does not seem to have troubled the Commission.
Turning to para. 334, we find that:
"Mr McCormick's second purpose in showing the evidence of these four incidents was to suggest that Mr Evra reacted outwardly far more to those incidents than he did in the goalmouth when he claimed that Mr Suarez used the word “negro” five times. Had that really been the case, submitted Mr McCormick, we would have seen a stronger reaction from Mr Evra given how he reacted at other times during the match."
In rejecting this second ground, the Commission begins by stating:
"Mr Evra said that when the team were preparing for the match in training, the manager told them to be careful not to get sent off in the game. He told us that he was proud of how he reacted to Mr Suarez on the pitch. He knew that he had to stay disciplined." (para. 335)
Turning again to the evidence advanced by Mr McCormick:
"The second incident occurred in the 12th minute. Stewart Downing went past Mr Evra on the wing and fell over. The assistant referee told Mr Marriner that Downing had just fallen, and no free kick was awarded. Mr Evra claimed that Downing had dived, and he gestured for a yellow card to be shown to Downing. Mr Marriner agreed in evidence that to call for a caution could, in itself, have been a bookable offence, although he did not caution Mr Evra." (para. 330)
I would submit that, for a wing-back charged with containing Luis Suarez, running the risk of being awarded a soft yellow card by making this gesture is anything but evidence of a disciplined approach to his task.
The final rejection comes in para. 336 where the Commission, having dealt with the supplementary evidence, address the submission as a whole:
"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. 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."
I see two problems with this statement. The first, as described above, relates to the way the language used tends to discourage the possibility that one might accept this scenario since it would be simply too monstrous to contemplate, whereas the alternative is couched in terms of a regrettable mistake made by Mr Suarez. The second is that we find the question of probability being conflated with that of inconsistency, even though they are described by the Commission as two separate tests which may be used when resolving factual disputes.
Anyone who has read either the report, or the coverage of it in the media, can be in no doubt that it was the Commission's sense that the evidence of Mr Suarez was inconsistent which ultimately condemned him. Thus, for the question of which was the more probable account to be judged based on the consistency of the witness renders this second test redundant; having already determined that Mr Evra's account was more consistent, they would have no option but to accept it as more probable as well.
But since they have chosen to blur the boundary between these two tests, let's consider for a moment the question of inconsistency. The section detailing the various types of inconsistency which the Commission looked for and found covers some 21 pages from para. 238 to para. 321. Of these 84 paragraphs, only 12 (paras. 270 - 281) deal with possible inconsistencies in Mr Evra's account; the remaining 72 are almost exclusively devoted to detailing the inconsistency of Mr Suarez, either on his own account, or when compared with other members of Liverpool FC. My analysis of this section is that the Commission found the following:
Of Mr Evra
That he had initially thought Mr Suarez had called him a 'nigger', based on a misunderstanding of the Spanish word 'negro'. The fact that he used the word 'black' when complaining to the referee during the match was due to a dislike for using the more offensive term, and, in the judgement of the Commission, "nothing turns on the fact that Mr Evra may have thought that the word 'negro' as used by Mr Suarez in the match translated as 'nigger'." (para. 273)
That there was some doubt as to whether Mr Evra's words to the referee during the match were "...that he had been called a black, or that he had again been called a black,". However, the Commission were:
That there was some inconsistency between the number of times he reported Mr Suarez using the word 'negro' in his evidence (5 times) and when he said in a Canal+ interview that Mr Suarez had used the word "...at least ten times.". However, this can be attributed both to the fact that Mr Evra was angry and upset, and that 'ten times' is a figure of speech in French, and is not meant to be understood literally.
Of Mr Suarez:
That he claimed he was attempting to defuse the situation when he "...touched Mr Evra's left arm in a 'pinching type movement'," (para. 247). However, the Commission found that:
That he overstated the case when he said that: "For the word 'Negro' to be used in an offensive way it would have to be used with another word such as 'negro de mierda'". The Commission found that this was contradicted by the expert testimony, when they said that it would "often be appended with a further insult" (para. 257).
That in his statement to the Commission, he adopted the use of the word 'conciliatory' with respect to his actions and the use of the term 'negro', in place of the word 'affectionate' which he had used in his initial interview with the FA, and that he did so because the report of the language experts, which he had read in the intervening period, had employed the word 'conciliatory'.
That there is a serious discrepancy between what Mr Suarez contends he said to Mr Evra, and what was reported at the time by Mr Comolli and Mr Dalglish to the referee and the fourth official, Mr Dowd. Mr Suarez insists that he only used the phrase '¿Por qué, negro?'. However, in describing the events immediately following the match, the referee's report states that Mr Dalglish said:
Mr Marriner's report continues:
Further that a similar discrepancy exists with regard to the testimony of Dirk Kuyt:
This is problematic for Mr Suarez since the use of the Dutch word 'omdat', meaning 'because', matches the Spanish 'porque' reported by Mr Evra, and not '¿por qué?' ('why?'), which Mr Suarez claims to have used.
That his account of the incident changed over time in respect of the timing and the context in which he claimed to have used the phrase '¿Por qué, negro?' , i.e. whether it was after the referee spoke to the two players or before, and whether it was in relation to his touching the back of Mr Evra's head, touching Mr Evra's arm, or the initial foul in the 58th minute.
I will endeavour not to labour the point about the exculpatory language employed with regard to Mr Evra, and the equally condemnatory tone adopted towards Mr Suarez. That, I fear, is an ex-horse. It has ceased to be.
I would, however take issue with the Commission on two counts: firstly, that some, at least, of what they have to say about Mr Suarez makes little or no sense when subjected to even the most superficial analysis; secondly, as well as questions about what is included in this section, I would argue there are questions about what is excluded.
In the first instance, we need look no further than the first inconsistency with which Mr Suarez is charged - that he claimed to have been attempting to defuse the situation when he touched Mr Evra's arm in a 'pinching type movement'. For the sceptical reader, I provide fair warning that the following is a word-game, but I would remind you that this particular item is used at various points in the report as a stick with which to beat Mr Suarez, and is indeed one of the complaints which makes the cut to appear in the final summary. I would contend, therefore, that it is worthy of some scrutiny. To begin with, let's look at how this is described at various places within the report:
"Having said in his witness statement that he was trying to defuse the situation when he touched Mr Evra's left arm in a 'pinching type movement', Mr Suarez eventually answered, after persistent questioning, that he was not trying to calm down the situation by doing so." (para. 247)
"It was plain to us that Mr Suarez's pinching of Mr Evra's arm was not an attempt to defuse the situation. It could not conceivably be described in that way." (para. 248)
"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." (para. 249)
"We did not accept that that was a satisfactory explanation for Mr Suarez's plainly incorrect assertion that the pinching was an attempt to defuse the situation." (para. 251)
"Mr Suarez's pinching of Mr Evra's skin was not an attempt to defuse the situation. On the contrary, it was an attempt to aggravate Mr Evra and to inflame the situation." (para.356)
"His evidence was inconsistent with contemporaneous evidence in the form of video footage, especially with regard to his claims of pinching as an attempt to defuse the situation," (para. 379)
"Mr Suarez's evidence was unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance. It was, in part, inconsistent with the contemporaneous evidence, especially the video footage. For example, Mr Suarez said that he pinched Mr Evra's skin in an attempt to defuse the situation." (para. 453 (5))
If we look now at the actual text of Mr Suarez's statement we find he said:
"Evra did not back off and Dirk Kuyt was approaching us to stand between us. At this point I touched PE's left arm in a pinching type movement. This all happened very quickly. I was trying to defuse the situation and was trying to intimate to Evra that he was not untouchable by reference to his question about the foul." (para. 96)
I cannot reconcile the statement as written with the Commission's increasingly shrill insistence that Mr Suarez claimed "...that the pinching was an attempt to defuse the situation". It is perfectly clear, apart from an elliptical subject reference, that Mr Suarez made three separate statements:
This all happened very quickly.
I was trying to defuse the situation.
I was trying to intimate to Evra that he was not untouchable by reference to his question about the foul.
The motivation for pinching Mr Evra's arm, as plainly stated by Mr Suarez, was to indicate that he (Mr Evra) was not untouchable, that the foul was a regular challenge, nothing more. That this might happen in the context of trying to defuse the situation is not inconceivable, unarguable, or incorrect. I am clearly not suggesting that it was successful, nor even that it was sensible or particularly helpful. However, in spite of some fairly blustery language about his hostility and his intention to aggravate and inflame, the Commission does not directly censure him for pinching Mr Evra. Indeed this is the one part of the FA's case which they reject (para. 384). While they may abhor the action, the only aspect of it which they use in their finding of facts is that he made a false claim in his witness statement. Unfortunately, that is manifestly not true.
Although there are certainly aspects of Mr Suarez's testimony which are troubling, there are other parts of the Commission's reasoning which could be challenged, particularly in relation to the evidence of what Mr Marriner reported Mr Dowd had written concerning what Mr Comolli had said Mr Suarez had told him. I will happily write at greater length if requested, but I fear I have already overstretched your patience with what is, after all, an unsolicited diatribe.
Moving on to the question of omissions, I am not (you may be glad to hear) referring to the ominous but non-specific rumblings about 'what is not in the report' which have surfaced over the past week. Rather, I would ask whether, on the evidence of the report alone, the question of the consistency and credibility of the two parties has been dealt with in a fair and sound manner.
In the case of Mr Suarez, the inconsistency between his initial evidence and that of Mr Comolli and Mr Kuyt receives a great deal of attention. I do not agree with everything which is stated; the arguments over the use of 'tu' or 'vos', for example have been rehearsed elsewhere and need not be repeated here (although the linguistic ineptitude of the report in asserting that 'tu es' and 'tu eres' are synonymous has not been castigated nearly enough in my opinion). Nonetheless, whether one believes Mr Suarez or not, there are clear discrepancies and the Commission is right to point them out. However, in the interests of fairness and balanced judgement, if there were any inconsistencies between Mr Evra's statement and those of other witnesses, would it not also be right to include them in this section of the report - even if it were simply in order to dismiss them as 'minor inconsistencies' and 'not of any material significance'?
At this point, I think it would be helpful to include, verbatim, paragraph 125 of the report, which occurs in the sub-section entitled 'Mr Evra's comments to his team-mates', in section IV of the report, 'The Background Facts':
"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'. We note that Mr Evra did not say in his own evidence that he had told his team-mates that Mr Suarez had said he would not speak to him because he was black. However, we accept that Mr Evra did say this to his teammates after the match because that is what all four of them say in their statements and their evidence has been accepted in full by Mr Suarez. It is possible that Mr Evra also told them that Mr Suarez had said he had kicked him 'porque tu eres negro', and this was not recalled by the players."
Call me a silly old thing, but it seems odd to me that the differences between Mr Evra's evidence and that of Valencia, Hernandez, Nani and Anderson should not only be dismissed so casually in this section of the report, but then not be so much as mentioned once in the 84 paragraphs dealing with inconsistency.
So far, I have only covered the first of the two major flaws which I said I would address at the beginning of this letter. Fortunately for all concerned, the second can be explained far less verbosely, though I believe it poses a more significant problem for the credibility of the judgement. Those who have read the report will recall that the issues before the Commission are set out in paragraph 31, as follows:
"In accordance with the Chairman's direction, the parties agreed that the following were, simply stated, the issues which the Commission was required to address:
31.1. On the balance of probabilities, is the account of Mr Evra true and reliable?
31.2. If it is:
(a) does that mean that Mr Suarez used abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Mr Evra in breach of Rule E3(1); and
(b) if it does, did the abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour of Mr Suarez include a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Mr Evra within the meaning of Rule E3(2).
31.3. If it is not:
(a) on the account of Mr Suarez, did he use abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Mr Evra, in breach of Rule E3(1); and
(b) if he did, did the abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour of Mr Suarez include a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Mr Evra within the meaning of Rule E3(2)."
This seems to me a fair description of the aims of the Commission, in light of the charges brought by the FA and the divergence of the accounts given by the two parties. I would also suggest that the use of the words "If it is not" to introduce section 31.3 is of particular significance. More word-games? Well, no. I would argue that the phrase itself may be significant, since those are the words the Commission chose in defining the issues, but whatever form of words they adopted, the nature of the question is clearly determined both here and elsewhere in the report as an attempt to determine which of the two differing accounts is true and reliable. For example at the end of para. 89:
"Mr Suarez agrees that, at this point, Mr Evra asked him why he had kicked him, referring to the earlier foul. That is largely the end of the agreement between them as to what was said in the goalmouth."
Mr Suarez contends that he used the word 'negro' once and once only. Mr Evra asserts that Mr Suarez used the word five times. It might not be unreasonable, then, to expect that the Commission, in deciding which account was true and reliable, should judge that the word had been used either once, or five times. The number that they chose in the end - seven - seems not only to have been plucked from the ether, but also to be a direct contradiction of their stated aims. Having spent 345 paragraphs establishing that Mr Evra is a consistent and reliable witness, and Mr Suarez quite the opposite, they proceed to find as follows:
"As they walked away from the referee for this second time, Mr Evra probably said to Mr Suarez again in English 'Don't touch me' or words to that effect, and Mr Suarez said 'por que, negro?', meaning "why, black". (para. 359)
i.e. that Mr Suarez's account is largely accurate, apart from the alleged reference to his being South American which they categorically discount.
"The video evidence clearly showed Mr Evra reacting to a comment made by Mr Suarez when the referee blew his whistle to stop the corner being taken. This reaction was shown in Mr Evra's face, his walking towards the referee and pointing back at Mr Suarez. Mr Evra then said 'ref, ref, he just called me a fucking black'. We found that Mr Suarez probably did use the word 'negro' to Mr Evra on this occasion also, although it is not clear what else he said." (para. 365)
Having thus established that the account given by Mr Suarez is probably mostly accurate in the first instance, and that the account of neither party is accurate in the second instance, they proceed in a feat of dazzling acrobatic bravado to leap, effortlessly, to the conclusion that:
"In all the circumstances, we preferred the evidence of Mr Evra. His account was clear and consistent in all material respects. There is no basis for saying that he lied or was mistaken in what he heard. We found that Mr Evra's account is probably what happened. The conversation was all in Spanish. The words which follow (below) were either Mr Evra's exact words or close approximations to them. Mr Evra said to Mr Suarez 'Concha de tu hermana, porque me diste un golpe?', meaning 'fucking hell, why did you kick me?'. Mr Suarez replied 'Porque tu eres negro', meaning 'Because you're black'. Mr Evra then said 'Habla otra vez asi, te voy a dar una porrada', which means 'Say it to me again, I'm going to kick you'. Mr Suarez responded 'No hablo con los negros', meaning 'I don't speak to blacks'. Mr Evra then said 'Ahora te voy a dar realmente una porrada', meaning 'Okay, now I think I'm going to punch you'. Mr Suarez responded 'Dale, negro, negro, negro', meaning 'Okay, blackie, blackie, blackie.' This meant that Mr Suarez used the word 'negro' five times in the goalmouth." (para. 382)
There is more, of course, that I could say on this subject, but that, I think, will do for now. All that remains is for me to express my utter bewilderment at the seemingly unanimous response of the fourth estate who have praised the Commission for its rigour and good judgement. There were times, in fact, that I thought I may have inadvertently downloaded an earlier, incorrect draft of the report. Nonetheless, barring some very strange coincidence, the page-count quoted in so many articles leads me to the inescapable conclusion that we have actually been reading the same text.
What troubles me most about the media response, is not simply that the findings have been allowed to pass unchallenged. I appreciate that the issue of racism is incredibly sensitive, and that any criticism of the Commission or the report may be seen to condone or, at least, excuse racism in football. I do not believe that. I believe racism to be abhorrent in any sphere of life, and I wholeheartedly support the campaign to kick racism out of football. In fact, I wouldn't object if someone stamped on its fingers a few times as it was being shown the door; or possibly broke its kneecaps. But you don't defeat a pernicious evil with flawed justice, and the piety of the press, the games of 'broken telephone' which further distort an already confused and confusing issue, the ad hominem attacks on key figures within Liverpool FC, serve only to exacerbate the already entrenched antipathy between footballing tribes.
(Jim, Manchester United Supporter for 30 years)