Much talk about it – the talented Luis Suarez (yes the one who so easily discarded England from World Cup 2014!) having a bite of Italian. However, I couldn’t resist the chance to publish a Guest Post written from a legal perspective, courtesy of Andrew McHale, McHale & Co Solicitors. The image that I have chosen to share is that of an Italian Pasta Manufacturer’s Ad welcoming the team home (note bite out of one!). This ranked just above the Suarez Bottle Opener – I love opportunistic humour. So see what you make of this take titled: “Suarez – Advisors scoring own goals?”
“I was going to pass-up on the opportunity of adding to what has been written about the Luis Suarez incident, but feel that there is one area that has not been focused on really: the quality of advice that he has been given. He seems to have been let down in this regard. As a lawyer, I have background in Criminal law (I’ve represented footballers, amongst others) as well as being an FA registered lawyer who represents players in contractual negotiations with their clubs. I undertake civil litigation work before all levels of Courts and also undertake Arbitration work (including having represented Footballers in FA Arbitration). It seems to me that the basic task of effectively advocating on behalf of Luis Suarez, in relation to the latest incident (and indeed the matter before the FA in April 2013) has been handled rather badly.
It’s quite striking that, in relation to both incidents, written representations made on his behalf have had the complete opposite effect of what was intended. They appear to have led the tribunals to the conclusion that he does not have an understanding of the seriousness of the incidents. I know that most people share the view that the version of events put forward to FIFA by Suarez is comical. It may well be what he told his advisors, but it seems incredible that they simply regurgitated it and forwarded it on. He should clearly have been advised that his version was not going to be believed and that as a consequence of that; he appeared to not be taking responsibility for his actions, which in turn meant that he was unlikely to seek any help to solve the “problem”. He presented as someone in denial and as a consequence left the tribunal to come to the conclusion that he was at greater risk of re-offending. It’s clear that the written representations did more harm than good. Even if he was fully in denial about his behaviour, I am sure that he could still have expressed regret about the incident and apologised to Georgio Chiellini for any injury caused (as anyone who accidentally injured someone would). This would clearly have been preferable to the denial that was issued.
What makes this error even worse is that it is not the first time that it has occurred. Whilst different advisors may well have been involved, you would have expected lessons to have been learned. In the Ivanovic case, whilst there was an apology, but, “when …read in conjunction with Mr Suarez’s denial of the standard punishment that would otherwise apply…..it seemed to us that Mr Suarez did not fully appreciate the gravity and seriousness of this truly exceptional incident” , to quote the Reasons of the FA Regulatory Commission. Effectively the submissions made on his behalf appear to have lead to a harsher outcome than could have been achieved by taking a different approach. We will never know if something along the lines of suggesting a ban of twice that set-down for violent conduct (ie 6 matches) would have found favour on that occasion but I would hazard that it would have.
The effect of having served a 10 match ban previously and not appearing to have learnt his lesson meant that the starting point in the present case was increased. The ripple effect carries on. In addition to this, having advised on an unrealistic outcome initially his advisors will have then forced themselves into a position of telling Suarez that he had been harshly treated. The point gets lost that stopping biting people should be the main focus of attention whereas railing against the injustice takes centre stage. Whilst I’m no psychologist it occurs that this could amount to a form of enabling that has left the underlying malady untreated.
So, on balance, I put myself on the side that says Suarez has been hard done too overall, but I don’t blame the authorities for this. They were placed in an impossible position. What he needs is some firm guidance and not from “yes” men. Telling clients what they want to hear can mean that you retain them in the short-term but it’s not in anyone’s interests long-term.
There is a piece of advice that I have given people over the years in Police stations: “Keep your trap shut”. It would have been useful here in more ways than one.”
I’m guessing the final admission and apology in writing was either a u-turn or pre-requisite of a future club that couldn’t be seen to tarnish its brand or condone such cannibalism.