Martin Lipton on Suarez's eight-game racism ban: The FA have acted with honour

The line in the sand was drawn. Clearly and irrevocably.

Racism is unacceptable in English football, no matter what the mitigation put forward.

For Luis Suarez and Liverpool - who have their own decisions to make - an eight-game ban was a decision at the worst end of their scale of possible outcomes and an appeal is almost certain.

Yet this was a landmark day for English football. A huge test of the FA machine.

And one, taking all club allegiances out of the equation, that they did not flunk.

Let there be no denying, either, that the Suarez case was a hugely tough one for the FA and the three-man commission asked to rule on nuance and culture as much as the facts.

That was why they deliberated over five days before reaching their decision on Tuesday, although it does appear that the biggest issue was over the sentence rather than the verdict.

There was, despite Evra’s allegations to Canal Plus after the October 15 match at Anfield, no video evidence to back up his claims that Suarez had abused him “at least 10 times”.

Nor did referee Andre Marriner take any action on the pitch, although it was clear he was warning the pair after a skirmish while they were awaiting a Liverpool corner in front of the Kop.

But Evra’s agitation was evident and Suarez’s apparent line of defence, that he was using a phrase which has different, more jocular connotations in South America - “like calling Dirk Kuyt 'Blondie'” - seemed risible.

Evra took the term used as outright racism and if it is perceived as such and deliberately repeated, it is hard to argue that Suarez was unaware of what he was saying or the way it was being taken.

It has to be remembered, too, that the Liverpool striker is not some ingenue, transported straight from his home in Montevideo into the mysterious and alien environment of Merseyside.

The striker spent four years at Ajax, in Amsterdam, in Holland, a country where the politicisation of race and racial issues has been a subject of deep and ongoing public debate. He cannot claim naivete.

In truth, too, the FA had to act, if only because they have been so swift to condemn racism directed at England players in overseas games, especially in Spain and Eastern European nations like Slovakia, Macedonia and Croatia.

The slovenly, cowardly and downright disgraceful attitude to those crimes of the larger governing bodies, UEFA and FIFA, also played a part.

Sepp Blatter’s outrageous suggestion that players on the receiving end of on-field racism should settle the matter with a handshake was met with disgusted disdain from all corners of the British game.

That was utterly unacceptable - for all the subsequent backsliding by the FIFA President - and the FA’s belligerent, determined and forthright response was both right and necessary.

But you cannot take such a public stance on these issues and seek to sweep the matter under the carpet when it takes place on your own doorstep.

And before Liverpool fans point a finger at John Terry and moan about “double standards”, how the Chelsea defender has received special treatment purely because he is England captain, they must recognise what has happened in these two cases.

FA disciplinary bosses planned to make a decision on whether to charge Terry over the allegations he racially abused Anton Ferdinand by November 3 only for that course of action to be taken out of their hands by the Metropolitan Police investigation.

Wembley chiefs now cannot do anything until the outcome of that potential legal case is known, which could take six months if a charge is levied - that decision is expected within the next 24 hours.

There was no such complaint over Suarez’ altercation with Evra, leaving the whole matter in the hands of the FA disciplinary beaks - who, you may surmise, might have been happier had this fallen into the province of the lawyers.

Instead, it fell to the FA, more specifically to Paul Goulding QC, former Stoke and West Brom boss Dennis Smith and Brian Jones of the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA, whose deliberations were long and detailed, aware that this was the case that would set the precedent for all future incidents to be judged against.

That benchmark has now been set.

Nobody, whether they come from Uruguay, Uzbekistan or Uttoxeter, can have any doubt over what the position is.

Quite how Liverpool now act with regard to Suarez is a different issue.

To this point, from Kenny Dalglish down, they have felt honour-bound to defend their man.

Inside Anfield, that stance may no longer be quite so easy to maintain.

For the FA, though, this was a major moment.

The men at the top may feel better about themselves.

David Maddock: Suarez has let down himself, Liverpool, Dalglish and football

Oliver Holt: Why Luis Suarez's eight-game ban is absolutely right  

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