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July 2021

An open letter to Brendan Rogers about Luis Suarez.

Disciplining the man versus the offence by Gordon Haverland


Your recent comments to the press were inappropriate; my hope is that this letter will help you understand exactly why, and how.  I also hope it might in some way help Uefa and Fifa  alter their requirements for professional coaches.

While football is a contact sport, the allowed contact is very specific: shoulder to shoulder when the ball is within playing distance.

When played within the laws, it is the beautiful game.  When played in an environment where the laws are not enforced, it can become very ugly.  Career ending injuries can be the result of that environment. Death is possible, although luckily this doesn’t happen often.

The issuing of a card to a player during the course of play is ideally a punishment of the player for the offence committed.  Referees are expected to approach each game with no knowledge of the players and teams (although this doesn’t happen in general but it is the preferred approach).

The assistant referees first and foremost are there to observe the situations involving out of play action and offside.  If they see incidents outside of that, they are encouraged to bring them to the referees attention.

On average, most humans have about 180 degrees of vision, although some people have a bit more.  But in general, a person only sees about half of what is happening, regardless of what direction they are focused on.  If a person is concentrating on some particular point (which can be moving), they can have significantly less than 180 degrees of vision at some specific time.

Consequently, it is entirely possible that the referee and his/her two assistant referees can miss an incident on the field.  It is also possible that any of the three can see an incident and choose not to act on it, although unless they are giving an advantage, that would be unprofessional conduct.

Another possibility is that an official can call some event which never happened.  That would be unprofessional conduct, but any observance of this by league bodies is not publicised.

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Lastly, it is possible for the officials (referee and two assistant referees) to become aware of a situation after it has happened.  It is then possible that the officials’ report for the game can state that they were aware of the situation, when in fact they were not.  This would be unprofessional conduct.

The disciplinary committee acts on reported and on unreported incidents during games.

Reported incidents are nominally just rubber-stamped.  A red card for violent conduct gets a 3 game suspension in general, but the governing body is allowed to increase suspension for persistent offenders.

Unreported incidents are probably assumed to have the same consequences as incidents seen by the game officials and punished, but this isn’t required.  An unreported incident should be punished on the basis of severity, and should always take into account prior disciplinary action.

But too often, punishments are not made, or reduced without  explanation.  Just another mystery element that needs to leave the game.

Ideally, unpublicised decisions need to be revealed to the public so that  independent people can observe what is happening.  Slipping when making a tackle for one team means the red card is rescinded and slipping when making a tackle for another team means the red card is enforced.  Why? It would be good to know for arbitrary decisions can quickly become seen as favouritism.

Brendan: Luis Suarez is a wonderful footballer.  By all means, try to help him.  But to put it colloquially he seems to have more than one screw loose, and disciplinary measures have little or no impact on him.  He could serve this suspension (possibly reduced if he appeals successfully) and then go ahead and do something stupid again in the future.  Indeed given his record that seems more than likely.

What’s next?  A 20 game suspension?  If so, I predict whoever is the Liverpool FC manager at the time will again complain about the punishment not fitting the crime, ignoring all that has gone before.

I was actually calling for this suspension to be 42 games (all of the remainder of this season, plus all of the next season).  But fortunately for Liverpool nobody asks me.

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10 comments to An open letter to Brendan Rogers about Luis Suarez.

  • Dave Highbury

    Broken legs for Arsenal players are OK

  • robl

    He bit someone, he got a 7 game ban. He bit someone else and as he didn’t learn after the first ban he was clearly going to get a longer ban. Hardly rocket science dear Brendan.

    Is he a good footballer? Yes. Do I feel sorry for Liverpool? Yes. Is Suarez a bit of a twat? Yes.

    Did LFC learn after the racism debacle? a little, which is a start.

  • max

    Denis Wise, Jermain Defoe, laughed off, no hysteria, this is like a Monty Python sketch, absurd. When Rooney violently elbowed a Wigan player last season, why no media hysteria? Comical! I don’t buy into this media driven nonsense, prisoner to a constructed, restricted perspective, I’M A FREE MAN!

  • Stevie E

    In football, just like every mass entertainment media, we the brainless, thoughtless masses are being told what to think. In the Suarez case we are being made to think that a lite bite is possibly the most heinous crime to be committed on a pitch, whereas a cheek fracturing elbow is mearly the rough and tumble of the toughest, fastest, bestest league in the world (apart from those in foreign parts, obviously)… Until we, the masses, vote with our wallet, these brain worms will continue their parasitic delving into our minds, trying to convince us that being one of the top four teams in the UK consistently is an obvious sign of a club on decline, that 7/8 years without a trophy needs to be mentioned in every single article, etc etc etc. (I don’t need to rehash all their arguments here, we see them ad nauseam.

    Fuck that shit.

  • Stuart

    I gave up reading newspapers years ago as most of the stories are one sided drivel, not just the sports sections.

  • ClockEndRider

    Steve E
    Well played, sir. Couldn’t have put it better.

  • @blacksheep63

    As punishment, he should made to eat all of chelski’s players

    More seriously a properly independent panel should be created to review all red cards/incidents regardless of whether the ref ‘saw them’ or not. The panel should include former refs and players (and Tony*)

    * just kidding Tony

  • nicky

    In my view, no punishment can be too severe for voluntary acts of violence on a sporting field of play.
    Thugs like Keane, Barton, Shawcross, Suarez etc should have been banned from the sport and made to face a Court of Law.
    Only by such means will our national game restore its reputation of only permitting fair contact among players.

  • Adam

    As soon as a player steps outside the rules of sport he/she is partaking, he/she should be faced with criminal proceedings and be judged by their peers.

    Same as everyone else.

    I cannot believe football is still allowed to operate outside of common law.

  • if I went down to the shop and someone annoyed me on the way and I went over and tried to take a chunk out of their shoulder I would be arrested,convicted and probably sentanced,this lunatic now has people worrying for him after what he has done his manager was talking like they are going to do everthing they can for poor old Luis get him professional help and all that jazz,this is a micro snapshot of what is wrong in todays society one rule for the spoilt over paid and undeserving rich and one rule for the rest of us mugs,another new low.