As FIFA begins Suárez investigation, two-year ban the maximum punishment at its disposal

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A FIFA spokesperson has confirmed that the world soccer governing body is gathering information in the wake of Luis Suárez’s latest biting incident, but according to the governing body’s disciplinary code, the maximum punishment at the organization’s disposal is two years. To this point, no punishment for behavior during a World Cup has approached that sanction.

Per reporting from The Telegraph, the longest suspension ever handed down during the finals is eight games – the sanction Italy’s Mauro Tassotti received after breaking Spain’s Luis Enrique’s nose in 1994. Brazilian defender Leonardo was suspended for four-games for an elbow that fractured U.S. midfielder’s Tab Ramos’s skull in the same tournament, while Zinedine Zidane was given a three-match ban for head butting Italian defender Marco Matterazzi in 2006.

The obvious difference here: Suárez is a repeat offender. Though his previous episodes have been at club-level, those incidents will likely inform how FIFA handles today’s behavior. Coming off last year’s 10-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, Suárez’s latest action might take FIFA into uncharted territory.

[ MORE: Suárez bites Chiellini | PredictableHow long to ban ]

From The Telegraph:

A Fifa spokesperson said: “We are awaiting the official match reports and will gather all the necessary elements in order to evaluate the matter.”

Fifa’s disciplinary code sets a maximum ban of 24 matches or two years, but the longest ban in World Cup history was eight games for Italy’s Mauro Tassotti for breaking Spain’s Luis Enrique’s nose in 1994 with an elbow …

Fifa’s disciplinary code allows action to be taken retrospectively via video evidence even if the incident has been seen by the referee.

Article 77 of Fifa’s disciplinary code states the disciplinary committee is responsible for “sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention” and “rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions”.

That brings us back to the question Joseph Prince-Wright tried to answer earlier today: How long should Suárez be banned? England set a standard with 10 (lower stakes) games. The maximum is 24 months. Should the ban be based on games played (with 24 being the maximum)? Or have we reached the point where Suárez needs to take a set period of time off?

And to what end? If, as we discussed later today, this problem may not be correctable, the whole goal of the punishment needs to be reassessed. Providing a deterrent for Suárez may be irrelevant. Punishment may be more about justice, as well as deterring other, less impulse-driven players from doing the same.

The deeper we dig, the more complicated the Suárez picture becomes, but with Uruguay set to play against on Saturday, we should have an answer soon. For the second straight tournament, the Uruguayan star will likely serve a suspension in the knockout round.