Luis Suarez was banned for eight games and fined £40,000 by the FA yesterday, after an independent regulatory commission found the Liverpool player guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
Here's the FA statement, which confirms the finding that "Mr Suarez used insulting words towards Mr Evra," and that, "the insulting words used by Mr Suarez included a reference to Mr Evra's colour."
The ban is subject to an appeal, which following the release of this reaction statement from Liverpool, appears highly likely. The official line from the club is one of outrage, at what they deem an "extraordinary" judgement.
The FA will provide full written justification for its ruling in due course, but Liverpool are clearly under the impression Suarez has been punished on the basis of Evra's testimony alone. It is this element of the case that has promoted the notion amongst Suarez sympathizers that the FA has conducted a "witch hunt" for the Uruguayan.
"We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no-one else on the field of play - including Evra's own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials - heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken." - Liverpool FC
Liverpool have also questioned the credibility of Evra's testimony, referencing his unproven allegation of racism against a groundsman at Chelsea in 2008. Moreover, they have asked the FA why charges against the Frenchman haven't followed his testimony in the case, which the club claim included Evra admitting to "insulting Luis Suarez in Spanish in the most objectionable of terms."
Liverpool feel The FA reached a verdict on Suarez before hearing his version of events, and thus deemed him guilty right from the start. As the Daily Mail points out, however, this angle of attack is perhaps "overlooking the fact that it was an independent commission" who reached a verdict, and not football's governing body at all.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
Suarez and Evra were on opposite sides at Old Trafford, on October 15th. The pair clashed after Suarez fouled Evra in the second half, and in the aftermath Evra alleged Suarez insulted him with a racial slur.
According to the Mail version of events, the word in question was "negro." Suarez denies using it. The two players then came together again a few minutes later, whereupon Suarez patted Evra on the head (see the clip above). It's alleged here that Evra said, "don't touch me, you South American." Suarez is then accused of replying, "Porque, negro?"
Whatever Suarez actually said, his line of defence appears to be that the language he used is deemed wholly acceptable in Uruguay, and perhaps even used as a term of endearment. He has also quoted as saying, "I called him something his team-mates call him and even they were surprised by his reaction."
It appears the judgement reached by the independent regulatory commission has deemed otherwise. We can only speculate, but my assumption here is they have deemed Suarez's language to be both racist and provocative. Whether they have more evidence to go on than purely Evra's word will be revealed in the coming days. I feel obliged to assume they do.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Liverpool will most likely appeal, although they will do so knowing a failed appeal could bring a longer ban, and with FA unlikely to be impressed by the aggressive nature of the statement they released yesterday. If they do not appeal, Suarez can begin his ban immediately.