How can Suarez legally defend against a ban from football for his World Cup “bite”?Kevin Carpenter
How might Mr Balbi go about trying to defend Mr Suarez?
(Dis)Proving the offence
From the video evidence that has been seen around the world so far, it certainly seems that on what is referred to in the FDC as the Committee’s “personal convictions” (Article 97(3)), a standard of proof said by CAS to equate to the unique sporting “comfortable satisfaction” standard7, that Mr Suarez did indeed bite Mr Chiellini. Therefore, as the lawyer defending Mr Suarez, you would have to look for clear video evidence from a different angle that he did not bite Mr Chiellini. This will require trawling through footage from the numerous cameras around the stadium that may provide a different and, hopefully, better viewing angle. Indeed, in the press release, FIFA make a point of mentioning that under Article 96 of the FDC “any type of proof may be produced in particular are admissible…video recordings”.
The key evidence for this incident will, as already mentioned, be the video recordings in addition to the referee’s report and any witness evidence put forward either on paper or orally by Mr Suarez or Mr Chiellini. Oral evidence is not automatic under Article 111(1) FDC but can be requested by one of the parties under Article 111(2). An interesting tactical decision in these cases is often whether, and to what extent, to allow the athlete charged to present any evidence, as it is not always particularly helpful. For example, in one of Mr Suarez’s previous cases, where he was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra when playing for Liverpool, the Regulatory Commission of the Football Association in England had this to say at paragraph 453: “Mr Suarez’s evidence was unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance. It was, in part, inconsistent with the contemporaneous evidence, especially the video footage”.8 This sub-paragraph (5) of the Reasons goes on to make further comments about Mr Suarez’s unreliability as a witness before the FA Regulatory Commission.
Mr Suarez has already come out in the media and denied that he bit Mr Chiellini, and says that the media should not be making a big fuss out of it.9 However, given his past record, that statement is unlikely to count for a great deal, and therefore it is probably safe to assume that unless there is a camera angle which shows clear evidence that he did not bite Mr Chiellini, the charges under Articles 48 and/or 57 against Mr Suarez will be proven.
Level of sanction
- c) match suspension (Article 19 FDC); and
- f) ban on taking part in any football-related activity (Article 22 FDC)
Opportunity to appeal
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- Tags: Brazil | FIFA | FIFA Disciplinary Code | FIFA Disciplinary Committee | Football | Governance | Regulation | World Cup
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About the Author
Kevin is a advisor and member of the editorial board for LawInSport, having previously acted as editor. In his day-to-day work he has two roles: as the Principal for his own consultancy business Captivate Legal & Sports Solutions, and Special Counsel for Sports Integrity at leading global sports technology and data company Genius Sports.