Calculating Luis Suarez’s punishment 4

You’re going to hear this a lot over the coming days: “Is biting someone during a football match really worse than a two-footed tackle or a swinging elbow”.

How much you hear that is going to depend on how strong a punishment FIFA ultimately assess Luis Suarez and how it compares with other violent conduct charges in World Cup history.

I understand that and it’s not an unfair point to make, but it’s worth remembering two key factors: one, Suarez’s previous history and, two, the rarity of the offence.  Bad tackles and swinging elbows may well put an opponent in more danger, but they are all by-products of the nature of the sport - they are associated with the actions of actually playing the game.

Biting is not, and as such it feels alien and that little bit more unacceptable.

Luis Suarez has a lot of enemies in football and he’s an obvious hate figure for non-Liverpool fans, so this incident will naturally draw an incontinent response - and, inevitably, there will be those who will want to see a draconian punishment.  Again, that’s understandable, but there’s a need for realism here: Suarez should undoubtedly play no further part in this World Cup, but talk of a two-year ban is excessive - that kind of punishment is usually reserved for drug offences or match-fixing infractions, and that’s a category Suarez’s behaviour clearly doesn’t belong in.

Make an example out of him, ensure he realises that he’s let his country down, and take the chance to play in any of the remaining World Cup fixtures away from him - I’m fine with all of that - but don’t get carried away.

Five games - maybe an extra five suspended - and some kind of mandated behavioural counseling.  That will do; it reinforces the seriousness of the incident to the watching world, it amounts to a heavy punishment for the player himself, and it takes into account that this isn’t an isolated offence.

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