Disgrace and shame: Luis Suarez has cost Liverpool FC their dignity

     G.J. Herbert looks at the shameful history in the relationship between Liverpool FC and Luis Suarez; analyzing what it means for the club and the news that Suarez now wants to leave, as this week Liverpool publish guidelines on staff conduct. For more, follow https://twitter.com/gjhsports

 

     Liverpool FC has become somewhat of a joke in British football. Except the joke isn’t really that funny. Racism, cheating, violence – just some of the issues that the PR people at Liverpool have had to deal with in the last Two seasons. This is before even getting to the performances on the pitch, which has seen local rivals Everton crowned the best team in Liverpool for the last Two years. The once great LFC is now just another side. Luis Suarez and bumbling management has made a very shocking story to tell…



     The story rears its head again this week, as Liverpool FC released a handbook to its staff on “unacceptable words and phrases”. These guidelines are designed to stamp out any sort of discrimination at the club. However, instead of helping the tarnished image of a club (who defended Luis Suarez’s use of racist words on the pitch in 2012), the story seems to be yet another PR disaster for Liverpool. What kind of grown men need instructing on how to talk to another human being? Liverpool’s people apparently. For what it’s worth, no other club has to do this. Other club’s staff seemingly are able to operate in a professional manner. Is it a cultural problem at Liverpool? Possibly. I was in Liverpool a few years ago and popped up to the stadium for a look outside. I had no intention of paying to go in. Anyway, a steward was in the car park and I got talking to him. He was drunk, with a strong stench of vodka on his breath. He was also talking complete nonsense, but I had a bit of laugh with him. Suddenly, he asks “Do you want to go in”
“Yes,” I reply, not sure to what expect.
Next thing I know, he pulls some keys from his pocket and we are heading toward the stadium. He opens up a large exit and we are in. He takes me up a few flights of steps and tells me about the kop stand. Great, I was made up. But it did leave me slightly bemused at the staffing of a major corporate club. It was great friendliness, but in reality this guy was drunk at work and letting people go into a place he is meant to guard!



     That is just a fun little anecdote and slightly off track. The serious fact is that unprofessionalism is rife at the highest level of LFC. And it was the one and only Luis Suarez who exposed just how fractured the club is. Suarez is a great player on the pitch (when not diving or handballing). Overrated? I think so. He seems set to move to Arsenal for £45 million, but consider that Robin Van Persie who has been the leagues top scorer the last two seasons, only cost Manchester United £24 million; and you can see Suarez is very over valued. He gets goals but also costs wins, he had an Eight match ban last season and a ten match ban this season. The guy is a liability. Suarez first shown this “liability” tag in a match versus Manchester United in October 2011. This incident would end up destroying the very perception and legacy of Liverpool FC. In one of the most disgusting incidents to ever mar British football, Luis Suarez unleashed a torrent of unashamed racial abuse to a fellow player. An FA investigation followed, in which Suarez was found guilty of racism and the extent of Suarez’s racist words were revealed - To sum it up, the FA report reveals that Suarez called Evra a “n***”, and then told him “I don’t speak to blacks, blackie, blackie, blackie”.
It was shocking in itself. But this was just the start of a fiasco which would destroy Liverpool FC. At the time, the Liverpool manager was Kenny Dalglish. They call him “King Kenny” at Liverpool, and see him as their greatest player of all time. He was loved as a manager. Little did King Kenny know, he would end up being a sacrificial lamb used to appease the Suarez storm. The board of directors decided that heads must roll, but far from it being the perpetrator (Suarez coincidentally being their best player, most valued asset and leading goalscorer), it was Dalglish who hadn’t said a racist word in his life who lost his job. Dalglish’s fate was sealed after a second shocking Suarez incident. Liverpool and Manchester United met again. The players lined up for the standard prematch handshake. A forgiving Patrice Evra extended his hand to Suarez. In a show of utter scum, Suarez ignored the gesture, also ignoring his managers instruction earlier in the week to shake hands. After the game, Sir Alex Ferguson branded this “A disgrace to Liverpool Football club”, Ferguson urged Liverpool to get rid of the player and implied the clubs once revered image was being damaged. But Liverpool did the opposite. Instead of admonishing the player, they had previously gone as far as training in shirts with Suarez’s name and number on in support of him! That right there had now created the perception that Liverpool didn’t care about racism, what mattered most to the club was their asset and goal getter. Ethics and morals were secondary. Dalglish compounded the disaster of the Suarez handshake incident by launching into a rambling interview on live tv, Dalglish badly lost his temper in a passionate defence of Suarez. Again, this was hugely damaging to the image and history of the club. What was going on? Why are they defending this man guilty of using racist abuse and snubbing a gesture of friendship? Liverpool looked bad. Very bad. If you look up PR disaster you will probably find an image of this club. Dalglish was fired. Someone had to go, but with money and goals in mind Liverpool didn’t dare sack Suarez. The player had became bigger than the club (and an argument could be made that LFC were right, the team was terrible, without Suarez they could be relegation fodder. But at the expense of all ethics?)



     Yet even this is still only the beginning. Brendan Rodgers was appointed the new manager. He was low profile, so it was quite shocking when straight away Rodgers was part of a major television documentary. The real shock was when the cameras visited Rodgers home. Despite this appointment being his first big job, Rodgers already lived in a mansion… but the unbelievable bit of this was the full wall pictures and murals of himself that adorned the walls! Rodgers seemed a little besotted with himself. It was again another chip against the history of LFC, a club that once prided itself on being working class and real football people. It was hard to imagine previous bosses like Bob Paisley had great big murals and paintings of themselves adorning mansion walls.
Rodgers got to work. Results continued to be average. Suarez continued to be a problem, the biggest issue of the last season being a series of diving incidents. It again damaged the image of a club. Liverpool had been famous for football, all of a sudden they were famous as cheats. Time and time again, Suarez was diving down to win penaltys and freekicks. A series of handball incidents followed too. Suarez had famously been red carded in the 2010 world cup for a handball that stopped a rightful Ghana goal. When Ghana then missed the awarded penalty, Suarez celebrated in the sin bin. Back to the last season, and the climax of the Suarez / Liverpool story arrived when Suarez sunk his teeth into Chelsea’s defender, Ivanovic. It was one of those “Did I just see that” moments. Suarez bit another player. The ref missed it but afterwards, even Brendan Rodgers was in shock. He stopped short of criticizing Suarez but he didn’t make the Dalglish mistake of defending him. The Football Association had seen enough. Suarez was given a 12 match ban. He never played again that season. He will start next season with ten games banned. But will he even be starting next season at Liverpool? In perhaps the ultimate irony, Suarez announced he wanted to leave the club. After the club had sold it’s soul to defend him, Suarez now wanted out. Perhaps it is what LFC deserve after changing so many of their values, after sacrificing Kenny Dalglish, all to appease a nasty piece of work in Suarez. To make things even more bitter, the club that Suarez looks to be moving to is rivals Arsenal. The final disgusting act in the relationship between Luis Suarez and Liverpool FC.



     Throughout all this controversy, Liverpool FC consistently cast themselves as victims. They denied all accusations until it was impossible to do so any longer, they defended Suarez despite admitted guilt. The cost has been massive. They sold the soul of the club to hang on to what they believe is one of the best players in the world. Their payoff for that is Suarez telling them he wants to leave. Liverpool FC may head into this season with nothing, Suarez gone, all respect gone, all dignity gone and their claims of respect and working class football in the gutter. Will the gamble payoff, will Suarez end up staying and end up ending their Twenty year plus wait for a league title? No, even if Suarez stays, Liverpool aren’t up there with the big clubs of Arsenal, Chelsea and the Manchester sides. It is a sad state of affairs for Liverpool Football club. Brendan Rodgers recently advised Suarez not to move to Arsenal, saying “Luis should stay here, here he has the team built around him”. What a sad but true statement, it isn’t Liverpool Football Club anymore, it is the Luis Suarez Club, built around a man bigger than the team. All the values, legacy and history has been traded to keep Suarez at the club. The question now is will he stay… and should Liverpool look back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice in 2012 and “Get rid of the disgrace”.



     For more information on what Football associations are doing to kick racism out of football, please visit and support http://www.kickitout.org/ #KickRacismOutOfFootball