Luis Suarez thinks 3 games is enough, but it isn't

Chris Brunskill

Instead of establishing a precedent for how to deal with biting on the football pitch, the FA should be concentrating on how to deal with Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez has accepted the violent conduct charge leveled against him by the FA, but he feels that the standard 3-match ban for such behavior is adequate. I'm not surprised that the player is seeking to make his punishment as short as possible, but I feel a 3-match ban is nowhere near adequate in this sort of situation. Here's why:

The nature of the incident

Luis Suarez bit another player on the football pitch. He didn't stab him. He didn't shoot him. In a way though, what he did should be looked at the same way.

He didn't make a horror tackle. He didn't step on a player leaving us to judge intent. He ran down the pitch, grabbed a player by the arm. leaned in, and bit. There's no possible football related spin for biting a player. The only thing he could have possibly intended to do there was attack an opposing player.

With the teams involved in this game, naturally a few other players had previous incidents brought back to the forefront. We've all been reminded of John Terry's alleged affair, Ashley Cole's airgun incident, or Steven Gerrard punching someone in a bar. Frankly, those have no place in this discussion as none of them happened on a football pitch.

We've also inevitably heard about Terry and Suarez due to their recent racial abuse suspensions. While 100% unacceptable, again, they aren't really relevant here. Biting a player on the field of play during a game is an intentional, violent act. The FA has a responsibility to wipe this sort of thing out, and none of the previous incidents mentioned are remotely similar to Sunday's attack. Disgusting and unacceptable, for certain. Relevant? Not so much.

Luis Suarez has history of attacking players and referees

When Suarez was still a youngster in Uruguay, he headbutted a referee during a stoppage in play because he disagreed with some calls during the game. I'm sure all of us are aware by now that he also bit a player while at Ajax, making 2 clear examples in earlier portions of his career where the player has lost his mind and attacked someone on the field of play.

Forget some of the stamps, or the eyeball gouge of Scott Parker last season in this discussion about Suarez. Those events all color our perception of the player, but each of those also leaves room for debate about whether or not the 'attack' in question was intentional. The headbutt of a referee and a pair of biting incidents mark at least 3 times during the course of the Uruguayan's career where he has blatantly attacked an opponent on the pitch, and 3 times should be enough to establish a clear pattern of violent, unacceptable behavior.

The Eredivisie already established a precedent here

The Eredivisie and Premier League are 2 totally different entities, but that doesn't mean that they can't take notes from each other. In 2010, The Eredivisie had to deal with a biting incident in a high profile game. They decided 7 games was the appropriate punishment. Media, fans, and players all seemed fine with this decision. The FA probably need to take into account that there are more domestic fixtures per season in England than there are in the Netherlands, but should certainly look to this as a blueprint.

Luis Suarez is a repeat offender

This seems like a ridiculous thing to write, but Luis Suarez is a serial biter. He bit an opposing player before, and was given a 7-game ban for it. Roughly 2-1/2 years later, Luis Suarez proceeded to bite another player in a high profile match. A 7-game ban on it's own obviously isn't going to deter the player from doing this again, because it didn't the first time.

Luis Suarez is a fantastic football player, easily one of the best on the planet. He'd be a real loss to the Premier League in that regard, and the FA need to tread carefully with this because of that.

That said, being a fantastic football player doesn't justify attacking opponents because things aren't going your way. There's a clear history of this sort of behavior from Suarez, and none of the other 21 players on the pitch should be forced to play with a lunatic because he's got talent. If he can't control his rage, he just doesn't belong on the pitch with the world's best (or anyone).

I'd like to see the FA change course a bit with this, and force Luis Suarez to deal with the problem as opposed to worrying about the punishment. Drop the hammer, and suspend him for at least the first half of next season in addition to the remainder of this one. Do so with a caveat though, offering him the opportunity to have the ban significantly reduced if the player gets help with his issues.

Don't force the player to seek professional help, but set up his punishment so it's clearly in his best interest to do so. He's going to miss the remainder of this season regardless, so this would give him the opportunity to get months worth of professional help and potentially take this violent streak out of his game. It helps Suarez, it helps Liverpool, and it helps every single player that sets foot on the pitch with him.

The FA are often criticized for they way they handle matters like this, and it's because they generally don't do a particularly good job in handling them. They've been handed a golden opportunity here to try something new, especially when considering the timing of the incident. Instead of a 'by-the-book' type of cookie-cutter punishment, try to do something that will actually address this specific problem. Drop the hammer, encourage the player to help himself, his teammates, and his opponents, and offer to reconsider if Suarez seeks out that help. If he does, it's good for everyone. If he doesn't, it's hard to argue that any ban would be too harsh.

Update: As I was seeking out an internet connection to publish this, the FA handed down a 10-match ban. We'll have more on that in a bit.

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