x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers queries Luis Suarez 'independent' panel

Liverpool coach is 'bitterly disappointed' at length of Suarez's ban.

Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool's coach, takes a training session.
Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool's coach, takes a training session.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has criticised the English Football Association (FA) for supposedly prejudicing striker Luis Suarez's hearing by an independent panel.

The Uruguay international was handed a 10-match ban described as "severe" by the Reds boss for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

However, Rodgers questioned the panel's ruling when the FA, immediately prior to yesterday's hearing, stated the statutory three-match suspension for violent conduct was "insufficient".

"We need to understand what an independent panel is," said the Liverpool manager, who also queried how much of the punishment was as a result of Suarez's record, rather than the actual incident.

"We had been given clear indications by the FA that there was going to be an independent or so-called independent case put together and then we would receive what that sanction would be.

"If you are an independent panel and yet the day beforehand the FA come out and say he [Suarez] will serve more than three games, it is not independent because they are already putting pressure on the sanction.

"There is a prejudice there straightaway. There was a lot of euphoria around the time it happened.Everyone has their opinion, which is normal. People will be emotional in their statements former players of the club and ex-players of other clubs having their opinions the prime minister even chipped in, which is a different matter altogether.

"But when you look at it in the cold light of day, then it was violent conduct. It is the first time I have ever heard of an independent inquiry being dictated to by so many people.

"There is absolutely no doubt there should be a protocol in place which tells us what the variances are, because there are inconsistencies there."

Rodgers referred to the cases of Jermain Defoe, who escaped with just a booking for biting West Ham's Javier Mascherano. Chester's Sean Hessey was banned for five matches for a bite on Stockport's Liam Dickinson. Both incidents were in 2006.

"There have been two incidents of this type of scenario. One player received no ban and continued to be chosen by the FA as part of the England squad," Rodgers said.

"The second player received a five-game ban, so as you can imagine when Luis Suarez receives a 10-game ban, it is very difficult to understand, and even more so for Luis.

"For him to receive that [sanction], when the comparisons of the similar incidents is somewhat different, then that is what is hard to take."

Suarez was fined for the incident, but Rodgers said there was no thought of imposing a club ban, as they knew an FA sanction would be swift.

However, they did not expect it to be so harsh, even though the 26-year-old has a previous seven-game ban for biting an opponent while playing for Ajax on his record, and an eight-match suspension last season for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

"It is the severity of the ban that has hurt most," Rodgers said.

"That is something we are bitterly disappointed with not so much the ban, because everyone has seen it and Luis was very open and honest to know it was wrong.

"I felt it could have been 12 games but with a six-game ban and six games suspended, looking at his future behaviour.

"I don't think anyone could have argued with that.

"I can't help but look at it and look at the sanction which has been put on Luis and I honestly feel the punishment has been against the man rather than the incident."

Rodgers, who was speaking before the club received the panel's written report into their decision, felt there should have been an element of rehabilitation as well as punishment.

"That [ban] tells the player that it is unacceptable, what he did on the field, and everyone here knows that," he said. "But you have to put the carrot in front of the player to help him improve his behaviour and help in the rehabilitation.

"What has happened in this case is there has only been punishment. There has been no thought of rehabilitation unless something dramatic comes in the report that tells me otherwise."