Luis Suarez bite ban: Could Suarez face a Premier League suspension?

 
Nassos Stylianou
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How long will Suarez be out of action for? (Source: Getty)

Serial biter Luis Suarez faces an anxious wait to discover his fate after Fifa launched disciplinary proceedings against the Uruguayan for appearing to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, in the third such incident of his career.

Those looking at the rule book today to establish how bad things could get for the Liverpool forward have pointed out that according to Article 19 of Fifa's code, Suarez could face up to two years, or 24 matches, suspended from the international game.

But how likely is he to face two years on the sidelines?

The longest ban that football's international governing body has imposed for an offence committed on the pitch during a World Cup was eight matches.This was handed to Italy defender Mauro Tassoti after he elbowed Luis Enrique in USA 1994, breaking the Spaniard's nose.

This case is particularly important because like the Suarez incident, it was not spotted by the referee and the punishment was dished out following the match.

This was in contrast to Zinedine Zidane's headbutt on Italy defender Marco Materazzi in 2006, for which the Frenchman received a three-match suspension after being sent off.

In a statement on its website, Fifa has said that any type of proof will be admissible, from reports from referees, declarations from the parties and witnesses, material evidence as well as audio or video recordings.

According to sports lawyer Daniel Geey, a senior associate at Field Fisher Waterhouse law firm, the issues facing Fifa are similar to those the Football Association faced following the biting incident with Suarez and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in 2013.

"Initially, the question is: What type of offence should biting be classed as? Judging from the media reaction there appears to be something less controversial about, for example, a headbutt, which some may argue could potentially do more damage than a bite," he told City A.M.

Fifa will be able to draw on video replays, the referee's report and witness statements (Source: Getty)

Suarez, who has been suspended for a total of 17 games in two different leagues for biting offences in the last four years before today, should expect to face a substantive ban if found guilty.

But Geey does not expect that a very long term one like a two-year suspension being talked about in the press is likely.

"If I was acting for the player, I would be arguing that such a long ban, if found guilty, would be a disproportionate response. If found guilty, it looks unlikely he will play again in the World Cup, but a much longer ban may seem beyond what would be deemed proportionate and reasonable," he says.

Entering into uncharted territory for Fifa, the next question should the Uruguayan be found guilty is whether it will use breaches of national league regulations when coming to their decision.

Geey says that the player's representatives will more than likely be asking Fifa to take this incident in isolation, however given that the Dutch championship and the Premier League are competitions within Fifa's general remit, they potentially could look at his previous misdemeanours before passing judgement.

Could Fifa ban Suarez from playing for Liverpool?

This is a trickier hypothetical question. Within Fifa's disciplinary code, and specifically article 136, this could potentially happen.

If the infringement is serious, in particular but not limited to doping, unlawfully influencing match results, misconduct against match officials, forgery and falsification or violation of the rules governing age limits, the associations, confederations, and other organising sports bodies shall request Fifa to extend the sanctions they have imposed so as to have worldwide effect.

While as the article makes clear, while this is particularly for doping, match-fixing, falsifying documents and other such serious issues, the phrase "but not limited to" raises questions.

According to Geey however, while there is a provision that talks about any footballing activity, this is less likely to be used.

"If sanctioning a player whilst competing for his national team, it is usual practice for Fifa to ban that player for the competition the player was participating in when the offence occurred," he says.

It would also be "quite remote" for the Football Association to consider banning Suarez from playing for Liverpool, as he "was playing for a his national team which did not involve representing his club in competition".

The player and/or the Uruguayan Football Association must provide Fifa with their position and any documentary evidence they deem relevant by tonight, 9pm UK time.

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