THE BOSS of Kick It Out was quoted on the organisation’s website a couple of days after Patrice Evra’s allegations against Luis Suárez. At this point in time the word Suárez was accused of using was far stronger than the one Evra eventually settled on as the one he’d heard and if it could be proved it was going to be hefty punishment for the player. Liverpool fans on the whole were in agreement that they would not want a racist, no matter how talented a player, anywhere near their squad.
For everyone’s sake the case had to be investigated properly and the end result of that investigation had to be a verdict that couldn’t be questioned in any way.
The man who runs Kick It Out agreed:
Lord Herman Ouesley, Chair of Kick It Out, said any footballer guilty of racism should face “severe action” both from The FA and the player’s club, but “you would have to be able to prove it beyond reasonable doubt”.
He added: “There were incidents in the second half and Evra seemed to get very agitated so something was obviously bugging him because he was quite incensed. But if this happened he should have brought it to the attention of the referee at the time.
“No doubt The FA will take the matter seriously and consider the complaint fully in order for them to take appropriate action.”
So what happened? Why has Ouesley conveniently forgotten the need for such unquestionable proof? Ouesley felt it was vital when quoted in October, yet completely ignores it now that Liverpool are refusing to accept a judgement based on a far weaker standard of proof.
His outburst in today’s Guardian, in a report also linked to from Kick It Out’s website, is embarrassing to him and his organisation. If the case had been proven beyond reasonable doubt perhaps there would be grounds for him to complain in such a vigorous manner. He said:
“Liverpool FC need to take a hard look at themselves and how they have responded to the complaint and the investigations into the allegations of abuse in the Patrice Evra/Luis Suárez case.
“Throughout the entirety of the proceedings, over the past three months, all we have heard are denials and denigration of Evra. Since the publication of the 115-page report of the findings of the FA’s independent commission, Liverpool’s vitriol has increased. Suárez’s attempt at a belated apology is nothing short of lamentable. I cannot believe that a club of Liverpool’s stature, and with how it has previously led on matters of social injustice and inequality, can allow its integrity and credibility to be debased by such crass and ill-considered responses.”
Ouesley’s preconceived ideas about Luis Suárez jump out of the page. It’s easy to imagine him shouting about the nasty Uruguayan and how he should fit in with our ways if he wants to come to our country and asking how he dares use a defence of coming from a different country and culture when we’ve let him into our country and provided him with work.
Maybe that’s doing him a disservice and it isn’t how he sees Suárez – but he certainly doesn’t see any possibility that the Uruguayan could have been telling the truth. Surely the truth is more important than half-baked ‘proof’ of a token charge?
Ouesley then decides to bring up the hateful, racist, murder of Stephen Lawrence to help add weight to his blinkered argument: “At such a historic time in Britain, Doreen and Neville Lawrence have taught and inspired us never to give up the fight for equality, justice and fair treatment following Wednesday’s sentencing of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of their son Stephen Lawrence in 1993.”
He goes on: “With all these things, you come out of it with more credit if you hold your hands up.”
With all of what things? What on earth is he trying to say? What are “these things”?
The FA and Evra, in that report from that panel, made it clear that they did not think Luis Suárez was a racist. Yet here is the chair of the self-appointed and unregulated anti-discrimination group comparing Suárez, and Liverpool’s support of him, to the acts of racist murderers.
For that alone Ouesley should resign from his post because he, personally, is setting back the years of good work put in by others and for which he no doubt enjoys taking the credit.
“OK, Liverpool may have thought they had to defend their player as he is innocent. But if the club does not carry out a thorough investigation, how can it understand that Suárez said things which are not acceptable, but that he didn’t comprehend this due to his background?
“If this is the case, Liverpool have failed him. Because they have not told Suárez what the club’s expectations are; that they have a zero policy towards racism. If he is ignorant of what is required of him, Liverpool should be asking: how come we have got a contract with the player? Unless, of course, Liverpool are saying that they have explained to Suárez what the club want and he has defied them.”
Just a moment please, Herman. Let’s pretend (if you’re capable) for one moment that Liverpool and their player’s story was true. Suárez says something that he doesn’t know is wrong. Three months later, at the end of the case against him, he says he will never use that word again on an English football pitch, regardless of context. So Suárez has now learned that at least in football in this country there is very little tolerance of other cultures. Rather than risk offending anyone, certain things must not be said or done, even if they would be perfectly acceptable back where you came from.
You see Ouseley, and as those linguistic experts pointed out, Suárez did not think what he said was racist. The FA and Evra agreed that he was not racist. So how could he be “ignorant of what is required of him”? If he didn’t know using the Spanish word for “black”, in any context, was against your rules, how could it be that “of course” he “has defied” his club?
He continues to insult Liverpool based on the blinkered views embedded into his thinking:
“In any other sector, if someone makes a claim of racially motivated or abusive behaviour, an employer has to investigate if they are competent because this may be damaging to the business. Clubs in these cases don’t seem to be. And when it’s a high-profile incident involving a big-name player, they want to say, unequivocally, we defend our player 100%. Why are people not showing leadership and apologising, saying that we won’t do it again, and ask that they can move on?”
His ignorance continues. Liverpool have investigated and are happy with what their player told them – even if Ouesley isn’t happy with that. The idea that Liverpool’s owners didn’t consider the potential damage to the business is as laughable as the rest of his ill-thought-out bile. Liverpool defended their player because they believed his story to be true. And Liverpool have, seemingly unnoticed by this blinkered man, published an apology from the player, who told the FA panel that he won’t do it again, and have made it clear that they want to move on. Until Lord Whatsit blurted his nonsense out today maybe they’d had their last word on the matter.
He accused Liverpool of hypocrisy too:
“Liverpool have been particularly hypocritical. You can’t on the one hand wear a Kick It Out T-shirt in a week of campaigning against racism when this is also happening on the pitch: it’s the height of hypocrisy. Liverpool players wore a T-shirt saying: ‘We support Luis Suárez’, seemingly whatever the outcome. This was a dreadful knee-jerk reaction because it stirs things up. And, then, this was followed, after the verdict, with a kind of stance that says: ‘Hey, we support anti-racism and Kick It Out. But we’re not sorry. All we are really saying is that we blame someone else, not us.’”
Surely this outburst from Ouesley is a knee-jerk reaction. Surely his decision to drop his demands for proof beyond reasonable doubt is hypocritical. Surely Liverpool should withdraw from any co-operation with Kick It Out and find an anti-discrimination group that isn’t run by discriminatory officials.
The fact that a Kick It Out spokesman was telling the press before the hearing had even begun that Suárez should apologise for something he maintained he hadn’t done suggests that Kick It Out saw Suárez as guilty from very early on – even though there was no evidence whatsoever.
Lord Ouesley goes back to talking about the Stephen Lawrence case and perhaps some of what he says reflects his views of Liverpool Football Club. Perhaps he sees a club where the most of the owners are white, the board are all white and the senior coaching staff are all white and he somehow relates that to the police service of 1993. Why else mention it?
“I do think that the police service is much better than it was in 1993, when Stephen Lawrence was murdered. You can actually raise matters of race in a police station and get a degree of sensitivity that gives you comfort that you are going to be treated in a fair manner.”
How must The FA look to Luis Suárez? A South American, miles away from home, told that his own culture and language counted for nothing now he was in good old Blighty. The Uruguayan, sitting in a hearing run by three English men who didn’t speak his language and decided he was an unreliable witness because he didn’t look relaxed enough.
Not hard to see comparisons between the FA of 2011 and the Police of 1993, come to think of it.
One word the report from the FA mentioned was “sudaca”, a contraction of “sudamericano” (South American) that sometimes translates to “greaser” and is usually used in Spain as a derogatory term for immigrants from South America. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to work out the parallels between Spain and the UK in that regard. Whether the word “sudaca” was used or not on the pitch at Anfield isn’t clear and isn’t important in judging Suárez’s innocence or otherwise. But what has to be noted is how Suárez has been treated like a “sudaca” by certain elements in the football world – and that began well before the Evra incident.
Lord Ouesley claims that “there’s been a rolling back regarding equality since 2005, due to the reaction to the July bombings in London. And this has continued with the present government and the suspicion that is held of a multicultural society. It’s important that we sharpen up our focus regarding these matters.”
Well put your glasses on Lord Ouesley and read what you wrote back to yourself. Try to show some empathy, open your eyes, and read this back again: “Since the incident we’ve not heard a word of complaint from Evra about how his character has been besmirched by Liverpool. This is surely something the FA and the PFA and the whole of football should be concerned about: we can’t have a situation where there is just one side on the attack.”
Which side was on the attack when Kick It Out were laughing off any idea that Suárez might have been telling the truth? Had Suárez kept his mouth shut when asked what he’d said would he have been charged? Evra was praised for admitting to using vile, unprintable sexist language towards Suárez. Suárez was called an unreliable witness because different people disagreed about which words he’d wrapped around the Spanish word for “black”, none of those people actually having Spanish as their first language and in some cases being far from fluent in it.
The bloodlust to get Suárez banned in the wake of Sepp Blatter’s stupid comments was embarrassing – but you’d need a bit of empathy and an ability to view it without prejudice to see it.
It says a lot about the new owners that rather than accept a plea bargain (which is something Kick It Out seemed to suggest would have helped Suárez) they chose to stand by him in his attempts to clear his name. Instead of letting him get a shorter ban for apologising for something he didn’t do, as Kick It Out seemed to suggest would happen, they risked him getting the full ban because they felt sure justice would be done and his defence would be successful. Lord Ouesley doesn’t see it this way: “Surely the new owners, with their experiences of equality and inclusion in the US, can see how their brand is being devalued, and if they sanction this sort of lack of professionalism and moral leadership, we may as well pack up and go home and forget about anti-racism.”
That is the one good idea Lord Ouesley came up with in his astonishing rant. He should call it a day and let Kick It Out find a new Chair – and Liverpool’s owners, including the minor owner Lebron James, might just be able to help in the search for someone truly and wholeheartedly against all forms of discrimination.
Lord Ouesley continues by praising The FA unreservedly, even though their rules and regulations fell short of his own demands for proof beyond reasonable doubt: “The FA has shown that it has the bottle to back its Respect campaign by enforcing rules and regulations with regard to unacceptable behaviour and conduct. We have a duty and responsibility to demonstrate to the world how we deal with this issue. It’s fine to criticise Fifa and Uefa but let’s show we can take care of our own business.”
How best to do that? By removing the people in football who are stuck back in some bygone age – people like Lord Ouesley. He agrees, although he probably doesn’t realise it: “The future of football needs such strong and decisive leadership, especially for the next generation of young people who play the game across the country. Let’s remove all racists and bigots from football.”
Zero tolerance should not lead to intolerance.
Liverpool Football Club are not beyond criticism in their handling of this case but most of that criticism is about the naivety on show in dealing with The FA and its archaic, inconsistent and frankly inappropriate regulations and procedures. A lot of people in football deserve criticism for their part in this case and their part in historic cases that weren’t reviewed to prevent cases like this from evolving like this.
It’s time to stop fighting each other and time to start working together, time to start opening eyes and ears and to start looking, listening and learning. The Chair of Kick It Out, the head of the FARE and the man who runs the PFA shouldn’t be celebrating a verdict based on such flimsy evidence and certainly shouldn’t be so openly and heavy-handedly criticising the losing party.
Football needs to move on, and to do that it needs to throw away its grudges and remove the arrogant fools it relies on for leadership.
As a Liverpool fan I won’t be alone in saying this. We’re sick of all the wars and we’re sick of fighting battles that aren’t really about football. But we won’t stop fighting them until we feel we’ve got something approaching a fair deal. Tom Hicks and George Gillett saw that. The Sun saw that. The government of 1989 and all those who assisted them with the Hillsborough cover up have seen that and will see that until that battle is won too. Compared to those battles this one is minor, but it’s only minor if we do compare it to those. It still matters to us.
What we really want is to watch and play football and to go back to where we were a few months ago where the only time we talked about colour was when we talked about the shirts on players’ backs or when the referee was dishing out cards.
So, let’s talk, let’s ask questions, let’s hear answers, let sort this mess out and get back to playing football.
Stop kicking us and start listening to us.