Luis Suárez has been banned for eight matches and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra, prompting an extraordinary response from Liverpool accusing the Manchester United player of being "not credible" and alleging that the Football Association had deliberately set out to punish their player even before hearing the evidence.
In a statement that also calls for the FA to press charges against Evra, Liverpool described themselves as "surprised and disappointed" with the "extraordinary" decision to find Suárez guilty of aiming racist abuse at the Senegal-born Frenchman during the 1-1 draw at Anfield on 15 October.
Their manager, Kenny Dalglish, tweeted: "Very disappointed with today's verdict. This is the time when @luis16suarez needs our full support. Let's not let him walk alone. KD"
The club are considering an appeal, with the punishment suspended and Suárez free to play until the process is completed, and the wording of their statement makes it clear they will not contemplate taking their own disciplinary action against a player who is understood to have admitted calling his opponent a "negro".
"We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no one else on the field – including Evra's own team-mates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner-kick was about to be taken," the statement said.
"It is our strong belief, having gone over the facts of the case, that Luis Suárez did not commit any racist act. It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations."
That was a reference to Evra's disciplinary case in 2008 when he was banned for four matches and fined £15,000 after an altercation with a Chelsea groundsman. The FA hearing at the time ruled his evidence was "exaggerated and unreliable" and Liverpool made a great point of focusing on this during the Suárez case.
However, the FA's three-man independent commission, led by Paul Goulding QC, did not accept Suárez's argument that the words he used were perfectly acceptable for someone from Uruguay, a defence of culture and semantics that has led to it being described as one of the more complex cases ever to fall under the remit of the FA's disciplinary unit. Suárez said on Twitter: "Today is a very difficult and painful day for both me and my family. Thanks for all the support, I'll keep working!"
There was no apology and it soon became apparent why as Liverpool turned the focus back on to the man who made the allegation. "It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said: 'I don't think that Luis Suárez is racist'. The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suárez was not racist," their statement said.
"Luis himself is of a mixed-race family background as his grandfather was black. He has been personally involved since the 2010 World Cup in a charitable project which uses sport to encourage solidarity amongst people of different backgrounds with the central theme that the colour of a person's skin does not matter; they can all play together as a team.
"We do not recognise the way in which Luis Suárez has been characterised. It appears to us that the FA were determined to bring charges against Luis Suárez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November.
"Nothing we have heard in the course of the hearing has changed our view that Luis Suárez is innocent of the charges brought against him and we will provide Luis with whatever support he now needs to clear his name. We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks to an opponent after he admitted himself in his evidence to insulting Luis Suárez in Spanish in the most objectionable of terms. Luis, to his credit, actually told the FA he had not heard the insult."
Evra had reportedly pushed away Suárez's hand when the Uruguayan attempted to pat him on the head and used words to the Liverpool player along the lines of: "Don't touch me, you South American." Liverpool have asked the FA to issue the same charges that have now led to Suárez's reputation being tarnished.
The FA's hearing, that began last Wednesday, had ruled that Suárez used "insulting words" that "included a reference to Mr Evra's colour". The full written reasons will be provided to Liverpool in the next few days and they will have 14 days to appeal. However, if they were to lose an appeal Suárez could potentially face an even longer ban. In the meantime Suárez is set to play in the league fixture at Wigan Athletic on Wednesday.
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