Why the PFA Chief Gordon Taylor Is Wrong to Thrash Liverpool and Luis Suarez

Kaustav BoseCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2011

WIGAN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Luis Suarez (L) of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Liverpool at the DW Stadium on December 21, 2011 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

As reported by various dailies in England like The Telegraph and The Guardian, Professional Footballers Association (PFA) chief Gordon Taylor has literally thrashed out at Liverpool and Luis Suarez, stating that cultural difference etc. are not at a defense for Liverpool with regards to the incidents involving Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra.

Strong as it may sound, the PFA chief's arguments overlook a lot of grounds on which the case rests and have made it look much simpler than it really is.

Here the excerpts of the PFA's chief Gordon Taylor are mentioned below with the arguments which states their weakness. (The excerpts of Mr. Gordon Taylor's speech have been stated in bold and have been taken from the website espnstar.com)

(Professional Footballers Association head Gordon Taylor  has finally hinted, of course in an indirect manner, that the word used by Suarez in the incident involving Patrice Evra is at least NOT ENGLISH, but a term commonly used in South America. Therefore, we can assume that the word in use can deduced be considered to be “negrito.”)

Taylor states ".. the point is, if it isn't wrong to make reference to somebody's skin colour [in another country] in this way, it should be."

The PFA Chief, then states "When it comes to banter between players, I think it is pretty clear that to make reference to somebody's nationality, or the colour of their skin, is wrong regardless of where the player has come from in the world.

Well, the PFA chief, Gordon Taylor here is apparently condemning stating that his knowledge about cultures is supreme. The key point he misses out here is that the term “negrito” is not something that can be so easily translated in the sense of its use. Yes, the Spanish translation of the term is “a little black fellow,” but then to consider that just a literal translation of words is really not the best way to come to terms with a language, is it?

Why should the PFA not understand that the word may not have the context as a google translate may give you ?  

Well, Mr. Gordon Taylor then speaks about banters. Is he stating any specific code for banters? He has already stated that he feels that the term used by Suarez is offensive, and because the term is in common use in South America. Spain, so they if they were to listen to the chief, they could have maybe make a few corrections to the language they interact with.

My point here is not to state that the PFA chief has no point of value here. Yes, he does. But is there any line of conduct when there is a banter among players? Has the PFA laid down rules? If not, then shouldn’t every banter be inspected using video evidence and bans and fines handed out accordingly?

What I understand is that the PFA chief is stating that Luis Suarez was trying to denigrate Partice Evra on forbidden grounds. Well, so how does the F-word (and its various derivatives) fare in that case? Is it ok to use it, because we regularly see players use it even towards referees, or does an abuse only count if a complaint is lodged?

Mr. Taylor then states "I've travelled the world a lot and this defence that it is okay to make reference to the colour of somebody's skin in South America in a jovial manner, well I've not heard that before. In the past we've been told that spitting [at someone] is common in South America and I've not seen that either.

This is a pretty funny point that the PFA chief makes. He states that “spitting is common” in South America. What he does after stating this is cleverly not continue on that point any further. 

Spitting on the field is always treated with a red card, be it in England or South America.

What makes the PFA’s point weak in the entire statement is that he is defending a very strong verdict given out by his organization on just the grounds of never having heard of it before. I imagine there are more languages he hasn’t heard of than he has, as is the case with most people including me.

Also, he compares behavior with language. Does he even understand that in doing so he has insulted the entire South America? Surely, people there are civilized enough not to greet each other by spitting at each other. 

Yes, it would be ridiculous to consider that Suarez was greeting Evra, however, if the the FA are so keen on viewing the body-language whilst Suarez uttered what he did, they must revisit the video again, because to me it seemed that the Uruguayan was trying to make peace with Evra and not really showing him clenched fists.

The same cannot be said about the response from Evra, though I think the FA wouldn’t even consider that because apparently they only look into matters only if somebody yells abuse at the camera or somebody complains. Whatever else happens, doesn’t concern the FA. 

The FA are dealing with racism in a unique manner, which won’t really kick racism out of anywhere or make people gentlemen unless every abuse is understood by the player who receives the abuse and more importantly, complains. In which case, if Evra didn’t understand Spanish or didn’t complain, the FA as opposed to handing out a ban would have not at all bothered about it. So they are not really dealing with racism, but a mere complaint, which they understand to be of racist nature.  

The PFA Chief then states "Maybe our standards are so high because we have such a multicultural society and such a multicultural game, but that is only right. That does not mean our standards are too politically correct or anything like that."

Here the PFA chief starts out stating that the English governing body is of higher standards. So is this not a statement denigrating another or a group of professional bodies on grounds of nationality?

But then he immediately states that it doesn’t make them correct in more ways than one. So apparently they are confused of their extent of rightness; why else bring in political grounds that are totally unrelated to the concerned event?

I may be wrong, but in a multicultural country, shouldn’t the respect be mutual? Why does Mr. Taylor insist that tolerance must only be from the foreigners in the land? After all, he only spoke something he normally speaks without ever knowing of how it could be interpreted in various countries.

He could have easily refused to admit Evra’s allegations, and the FA would have no grounds to take the case further. But then, he didn’t do that knowing pretty well that he didn’t state anything wrong, or at least so he knew.

The easy thing that the FA could have done was to consult with their compatriots from Spain and South America to know better and could have arrived at a more informed conclusion. However, as stated, Mr. Taylor instead highlights on the superiority of their association even with all their handicaps.

 And then Mr. Taylor goes on to say “I think it is up to the clubs to ensure new players are aware of what is right and wrong and they do. This isn’t something that happens normally and foreign players have been coming here in large numbers for the last two decades and that includes players from South America.

Is Mr. Gordon Taylor trying to state that only the case as to how they deal with foreigners again? I say this because, James Mackie, who actually is from England, got his suspension term reduced to three matches in 2003 upon admitting that he had racially abused his opponent.  All this happened in the past decade, so why is this reference to the last two decades? 

Also, the vital point that Mr. Gordon Taylor misses here is that the FA doesn’t seem to function the way it should, to remove racism, because they act only when someone complains. So the absence of complaints could easily explain the reason why they never came across the issue. 

I understand that society has no place for racism, but then, I think it is also practical to assume that any normal player usually responds to any derogatory remark by one which he thinks is more derogatory to thus gain a psychological upper hand rather than going and lodging complaints off the pitch. Actually, there is another term to this entire process; in cricket the experts prefer calling it sledging.  

Mr. Gordon Taylor also states:  "We have high-profile campaigns in this country supported by the PFA, Kick it Out, Show Racism the Red Card and Football Unites, Racism Divides which make it quite clear to every player what sort of language is acceptable and what is abusive. These campaigns are highly visible at every club in the country.

The fact that the PFA chief here refers to these statements clearly underlines how they consider Suarez to be a racist; why else refer to anti-racist campaigns?

If doing all what of the above makes the PFA chief believe that they are anti-racist, they must know that even Luis Suarez has done his part in the process. He may be in his own country, but that should not be considered any less important. Thus, he is not a racist.

Finally Mr. Taylor concludes: "If I was to work abroad, in the Middle East or Asia, it would be up to my employer and myself to make me aware of what is deemed acceptable behaviour in that culture and what is not. It's about respecting the country and the culture where you work. I don't see why that is any different here.

Every club has a player liaison officer to welcome players from abroad and look after them and it should be up to them to make it clear what is acceptable and is not," Taylor said.

Well, the employer in this case could easily persuade somebody to not behave in a particular way, but it is highly unlikely that unless the FA has some written down guidelines with certain words that they consider as abusive, it would be extremely tough for any liaison officer to know every word of even colloquial usage of every foreign player and guide them likewise.

Unlike problems with general behavior, this is not a case of spitting etc. (By the way, the FA also bans a player for three matches even for that offence).

Also, the point that FA seems to overlook here is that these footballers are not really educated in English language or its usage, and just to blame the club and the liaison officer for usage of words is very difficult. The simple reason being that the foreigner never knew that the word as a wrong one in the first place and won’t be even discussing the issues with the concerned person.

Putting in all these reasons together, I believe that although the PFA chief Gordon Taylor has his reasons behind taking such a serious step and punishing Luis Suarez, he clearly hasn’t at least so far been able to communicate that the basis for taking such a strong action is not entirely as fool-proof as he makes it to be.


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