Once bitten, thrice shy: Liverpool could sue Suarez for World Cup ban, insist legal experts at Manchester Uni

Liverpool FC lawyers could sink their teeth into Luis Suarez for his World Cup bite, claims University of Manchester’s legal team.

The Uruguayan striker was hit with a four-month ban from all football, a nine-match international suspension and a fine after he bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in his side’s 1-0 win in their crunch World Cup Group D finale.

And the university’s legal tutors Drs Hannah Quirk and Elaine Dewhurst believe Liverpool could take action against their biggest talent, who has now been involved in biting incidents on three separate occasions with the Reds, Ajax and Uruguay.

The tutors claim Liverpool could ‘sue Suarez for bringing the company into disrepute and damaging their commercial brand’ and that Chiellini could have taken action too for battery if the incident had been in the UK.

Dr Quirk said: “Of course, this is not simply a question of law; Liverpool is also a business.

“Having spent over £20 million acquiring Suarez, the club would lose a potential £70 million transfer fee if it dismissed him.”

The Uruguayan issued an apology to the Italian for his conduct, despite being in the process of appealing his ban.

Even though Suarez committed the assault while playing for his national team, his main employers, Liverpool FC, could dismiss him for bringing the company into disrepute.

Though unlikely, the club might be able to soften the blow by suing Suarez for breach of his employment contract.

With 16 weeks on the sidelines, thanks to the FIFA sanction, Suarez will be costing the Anfield club a small fortune.

“His inability to play for Liverpool during the 4-month ban imposed on him by FIFA could constitute frustration of his employment contract,” said Dr Dewhurst.

“Liverpool could sue Suarez for damages relating to the wasted cost of acquiring him, replacing him and damage to their commercial brand.”

Previous breaches of contract cases against players have generally yielded only small damage awards for football clubs. The highest award was in 2008 when Romanian forward Adrian Mutu was ordered to pay Chelsea £14m following his seven-month ban for failing a drugs test.

If the incident had occurred on English soil, a more general personal injury claim based on negligence against both Suarez and the Uruguayan Federation (AUF).

A personal injury claim against Suarez would be fairly straightforward – he clearly acted negligently and recklessly – but any damages would be minimal as the injury was not severe.

Taking on the AUF could be even more tricky as they are technically Suarez’s employer during the tournament – but it is questionable whether Suarez was acting in the course of employment. While tackles and fouls are considered to be part of the game, biting is not.

However, while the gross misconduct would have meant immediate dismissal for blue-collar Mancunians – and even action under employment law, personal injury claims and criminal law – professional sport ‘plays by its own rules’.

And there is a list as long as Suarez’s football authorities rap sheet when it comes to examples of footballers dodging prosecution for their badboy antics.

Suarez himself is no stranger to dodging the long arm of the law for his actions on the football pitch.

Merseyside Police decided not to pursue Suarez’s chomp on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last year because the injured player did not wish to make a complaint.

And the University of Manchester pair believe a prosecution could have been made, citing the ‘clear television footage of the incident’ as evidence. They also claimed ‘public interest seems clear in discouraging such behaviour’ as there were reports of parents of copycat incidents in schools.

Even back to his time the Netherlands, when he first flashed his pearly whites on PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in 2010, the then-Ajax man escaped prosecution.

Other football hardmen who took matters into their own hands on the pitch, include Manchester United midfielders past and present Roy Keane and Marouane Fellaini.

Ex-Red Devils skipper Keane was interviewed by police after his infamous ‘take that you c***’ tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland, but no charges followed.

Meanwhile, Fellaini escaped with only a three-match ban in 2012 when he thrust his famous afro into former Red Ryan Shawcross while still at Everton.

A Sunday League player was the first footballer to be jailed for a tackle in 2010.

Bizzarely, Sky Sports funny man Chris Kamara was the first player to be convicted of a violent on-field offence (grievous bodily harm) in 1988 for breaking his Shrewsbury Town man Jim Melrose’s cheek with his elbow while playing for Swindon Town.

Image courtesy of LFtv via YouTube, inset courtesy of BBC video via YouTube, with thanks.

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