Inevitably, at some point, one of these posts was going to be about football. I had not planned on it being quite so soon – after all, it is easy to forget that not everyone is a mad sports fan and mostly, this blog is broadly political. The events of today, however, make blogging almost compulsory.
Over the next day or so, even the die-hard sport hater will do well, at least in the UK, to avoid the latest Luis Suarez story. It will be across the back pages of every tabloid tomorrow morning and will not be ignored by the broad sheets. It will remain a permanent feature on Sky Sports for hours, days even, and will be the major talking point on sports radio stations. It will be covered worldwide – just put ‘Suarez bite’ into a search engine to see what I mean.
For those who have not heard, following a ‘coming together’ in Chelsea’s penalty box, Luis Suarez is clearly seen sinking his teeth into the arm of Branislav Ivanovic. It’s not an ‘alleged’ bite; there is no need to worry about the possibility of a claim that the TV footage is misleading. Suarez has issued an apology.
We have heard in recent days that top flight clubs spend about two-thirds of their income on players’ wages. At the same time, some clubs have been seeking internship candidates to work for nothing – not even expenses! Many clubs have been bought by foreign investors and the finances of the top tier of the game have been transformed by television money. In essence, football has been ‘Thatcherised’ – removed from its community heritage and placed firmly in the hands of the money men.
This is relevant because Suarez, a Liverpool player, is an exceptional footballing talent. He is the club’s top goal-scorer this season and is probably Liverpool’s most valuable playing asset. Under normal circumstances, irrespective of any retrospective action that might be taken by the Football Association, the real question is will Liverpool have the mettle to do the right thing?
Liverpool Football Club is known throughout the world. It has standing. It likes to portray an image. In order to protect this image it should let Suarez go, sack him or demote him to the reserves for a season at the very least. It’s not like this is his first offence. He has received a ban previously, in Holland, for biting an opponent and another whilst a Liverpool player for racially abusing Patrice Evra a black French star at Manchester United. He clearly doesn’t learn.
Doing the correct thing by sacking Suarez will be exceptionally expensive. Liverpool FC is likely not to do it. Any other employee caught behaving this way – and more than once – would be summarily dismissed. But football has its own rules, its own way of working, its own morality. The most that is likely to happen is that Liverpool will offload Suarez be selling him. Money will be the determining factor. I hope I’m wrong.