The latest Suarez scandal is unlikely to spell the end for troublesome striker

The Liverpool board will chew over selling their prized asset - but not for long, says Cameron Sharpe.

 

If Luis Suarez had wanted to endear himself to the players that helped put his name on the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award, his decision to sink his teeth into the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Anfield has to go down as a poorly conceived thank you. 

In the past, the Uruguayan has cited cultural differences as reason for some of his on-field indiscretions, but even he may struggle to convince the FA that biting others is how they say hello in Montevideo.  

Suarez has already apologised publicly to Ivanovic, but it is likely to be far too little, far too late.

Due to his previous record and severity of his latest offence, Suarez will, in all likelihood, play no further part this season - meaning that he has a near four month break from competitive action before playing again in a Liverpool shirt in August.

Yet, once the dust has settled and the FA have thrown the book at Suarez for his second display of mind-boggling idiocy in the last 18 months, Liverpool Football Club will have to take a business decision on whether or not the 26-year-old should be sold in the summer.

It will be the shortest meeting of the off season.

The discussion will be simple. The former Ajax striker is one of the very few truly world class footballers playing on the red side of Stanley Park. Moralising is for others - Liverpool cannot afford to do away with their troublesome forward.

Were he ten years older with a patchy fitness record and little form to speak of, his bite would prove his footballing epitaph at Anfield. But whilst he maintains value, there is little chance that Brendan Rodgers will be forced accept any of the offers the club will receive this summer.

Chelsea’s handling of John Terry over the past decade is a perfect template for how Liverpool will deal with the Suarez situation.

The former England captain has been involved in a number of scandals which could have cost him his career at Stamford Bridge. Yet, 15 years after he first signed professional terms with Chelsea, he remains the club captain and revered by fans.

His behaviour on the pitch has, generally, been good but his off field indiscretions have been defended resolutely by a club condemned for having no moral backbone.

At 32 and with an equally chequered fitness record, Terry is no longer indispensible and may find that his comeuppance from a decade of misbehaving will come in the form of the club failing to offer him a new contract in 12 months time.

Quite simply, Terry is no longer worth the fuss and therefore not deserving of any further loyalty.

Despite being on a different plane of misconduct, Suarez’s qualities on the pitch will mean that he is far too valuable to be sold - particularly to a rival club. That particular decision could quite literally come back to bite them on the backside.

There will be those who argue that Liverpool have to take a stand “for the good of the game” but there are few fans who would forego Champions League qualification or domestic success to gain the moral high ground.

You don’t hear Fulham fans singing about finishing top of the Fair Play League.

That is not to say that Liverpool won’t be forced to sell. A  fourth consecutive season outside of the Champions League will mean that Suarez himself might want to force through a transfer, allowing him to spend the best years of his career at the top table of European football rather than battling to get a hand on the tablecloth.

First and foremost, football is a business. Those calling for Suarez’s permanent exile would do well to remember that.

Luis Suarez during Liverpool's fixture against Chelsea at Anfield. Photograph: Getty Images

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The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder