teething-problems

Teething problems

Variety is certainly one reason why many people choose to become sports lawyers. The assortment of problems which might come up means you always have to be on your toes. There is one man in the profession who knows this all too well. That man is Luis Suarez’s lawyer.

It was Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini who was on the receiving end of Luis Suarez’s bite during Uruguay’s 1-0 win in Group D but it was missed by both the referee and his officials. The incident was broadcast to millions across the world and it sent both the media and the public into turmoil. There were huge amounts of speculation on the kind of punishment Suarez would receive, which ranged from a lifetime ban to the wearing of a muzzle at all times. FIFA subsequently announced on the 26th June that after its findings it had suspended Luis Suarez for 9 matches, banned him from any football-related activity for 4 months and fined him £65,680[1].

Which-rule-has-been-breached

FIFA found Luis Suarez to be in breach of not just one rule but two. The first rule he broke was article 48 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (‘FDC’). The article states that a player must be banned for “at least two matches for assaulting (elbowing, punching, kicking etc.) an opponent or a person other than a match official[2]. There’s no argument that Suarez’s actions can be deemed as assault. Chiellini was quick to show the damage left by Suarez during the game and it was clear for all to see.

The second rule broken by Suarez was article 57 of the FDC. This allows FIFA to issue a warning, reprimand, fine or return of prize money for “anyone who insults someone in any way, especially by using offensive gestures or language, or who violates the principles of fair play or whose behaviour is unsporting in any other way[3]. Of course, the subjective nature of unsporting behaviour means FIFA have a large amount of room for manoeuvre when deciding if an individual is in breach of this article. In this particular context there is little argument as to whether Suarez’s actions were unsporting and so FIFA’s interpretation is just.

The question as to why Suarez has been found in breach of both articles simply comes down to how much of an example FIFA wished to make of him. The breach of article 48 only allows for a more collective punishment in that Suarez will be banned from football. This ultimately affects not only the player himself but his club, country and any club interested in the player. The breach of article 57 allows FIFA to punish on a more personal level by fining him.

Footballing-repurcussions

The punishment handed out by FIFA states that Suarez cannot be involved in any football-related activity for 4 months. This in itself is a very encompassing punishment. It is not just a suspension from playing in competitive matches nor is it even simply a stadium ban. The punishment goes far deeper than that and prohibits Suarez from even training with his club or country. Not being able to train with his club will no doubt make a comeback even harder. When a player is injured they are still integrated within the club’s system and so are able to keep up, to an extent, with the developments in tactics and play within the club. For Suarez that would be nearly impossible since the punishment prevents him from even being present at Liverpool’s training ground. Being away for 4 months from any job would make reintegration exceptionally difficult.

The ban means Suarez will miss 4 Champions League group games, 1 League Cup game and a further 9 Premier League games for Liverpool meaning he won’t be available until after their game against Hull City on the 25th October. Missing 3 out of the 6 Champions League group games means that there is every possibility that by the time of his return Liverpool could be out of the competition. When considered that way the severity of the ban starts to add up and it dispels the notion that he got a very lenient punishment, particularly when you consider that he must be away from all football-related activity.

Potential-transfer-repurcussions

There was understandable belief that this punishment would mean Suarez would not be allowed to transfer to a new club. The statement released by FIFA went as far as to highlight that “administrative” activity in the context of football came under the ban of all football-related activity[4]. For Liverpool supporters this may have come as a small silver-lining to the incident amid rumours that both Real Madrid and Barcelona were interested in the player however FIFA later announced that there was no transfer ban and Suarez was free to move clubs should he wish to[5].

The ban and his track record likely means Suarez’s potential transfer value will fall. Whether this will be enough to entice clubs into buying the player when coupled with his on-field problems is another matter but it does mean Liverpool could lose out on a lot of potential money should he be sold.

Commercial-repurcussions

Like any top footballer, Luis Suarez has a string of lucrative contracts with sponsors that include Adidas, 888poker and Beats headphones. It is likely that these sponsors had inserted moral clauses in their contracts with Suarez which allows them to break from the contract should their brand reputation be tainted by any incident involving the player. 888poker have already announced that they have severed their contractual ties with Suarez[6] while Adidas have removed their World Cup advertisements that feature him[7]. Curiously though Adidas have not terminated their contract with the player completely and have instead opted to discuss the matter of sponsorship with Suarez after the World Cup[8].

The biting incident has therefore meant that Suarez has not only inadvertently eaten into a large chunk of his income, the Adidas deal is worth a reported £1million a year[9], but also compromised any future deals with sponsors who may now be cautious of signing him due to his reputation. Had the biting incident have taken place in a competition outside of the World Cup then the consequences may not have been so damaging for Luis Suarez but the sheer popularity of the game and his talent has come to haunt him.

Appealing-the-punishment

The punishment affects Suarez, Uruguay and Liverpool considerably so their ability to appeal is fundamental. Liverpool will not be allowed to appeal the decision due to article 119 which only allows those who are party to the original decision the right to appeal[10]. In this case this is Suarez and Uruguay so in affect Liverpool are left out in the cold. Potentially the FA could make an appeal on Liverpool’s behalf as this is permitting within the code[11] however whether this will materialise remains to be seen.

The likely course of action is that Suarez and Uruguay will appeal the decision however at this stage the ban will not be lifted pending the outcome of the appeal[12]. Therefore Suarez will still not be able to compete in matches nor participate in any football-related activity. Following an appeal decision (and presuming the punishment is upheld) the player and his country can take the appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Should this happen there is every chance that Suarez’s ban would be suspended until the outcome of the CAS case. Ultimately this is a long way off and it looks almost certain that Suarez’s World Cup campaign is over.

Links


References

[1] Luis Suárez suspended for nine matches and banned for four months from any football-related activity – FIFA.com

[2] Article 48(1)(d), FIFA Disciplinary Code

[3] Article 57, FIFA Disciplinary Code

[4] Luis Suárez suspended for nine matches and banned for four months from any football-related activity – FIFA.com

[5] Uruguay Star Barred 9 Games and 4 Months in Biting Incident – New York Times

[6] Luis Suarez bite: 888 Poker cancels its sponsorship with the striker after four-month ban – The Independent

[7] Adidas Pulls Teeth-Baring Ads With Suárez After World Cup Biting Incident – Wall Street Journal

[8] Luis Suarez to be warned by Adidas over conduct and could lose sponsorship deal – The Telegraph

[9] Luis Suarez to be warned by Adidas over conduct and could lose sponsorship deal – The Telegraph

[10] Article 119(1), FIFA Disciplinary Code

[11] Article 119(2), FIFA Disciplinary Code

[12] Article 124(2), FIFA Disciplinary Code

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