‘Patrice Evra could sue Liverpool for defamation and Luis Suarez won't win appeal unless he shows some contrition’ - sports legal expert Stuart Miller reflects on race row

Lawyer Stuart Miller tells Goal.com that Liverpool are "skating on thin ice" and likely to face disciplinary procedures from the FA after suggestions of an agenda against the club
By Greg Stobart

Liverpool reacted with fury on Tuesday night after Luis Suarez was handed an eight-match ban and £40,000 fine for racist comments directed towards Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra.

In a written statement, the Anfield club questioned the "extraordinary" judgement made by the three-man Independent Regulatory Commission and also cast doubt over Evra's credibility as a witness.

Suarez appears almost certain to appeal his punishment as the fallout from the race row looks set to rumble on.

Stuart Miller, the senior partner of European business law firm Miller Rosenfalck, has been talking to Goal.com about where the case goes from here...

What can Liverpool and Suarez do regarding an appeal?

"Suarez has 14 days from the time the full written judgement is published to appeal the findings against him. It's Suarez, rather than Liverpool, who has been fined and banned so it's his right as to where to proceed from here.

"If he chooses to appeal, he will try to say that it is not a just ban. It is highly unlikely that the decision made by the Independent Regulatory Commission (IRC) will be completely overturned, given Suarez has admitted to using the word.

"What he will argue, from my understanding, is that there was a cultural misunderstanding. He can argue mitigating circumstances in attempt to get the ban reduced on appeal.

"I have not seen the full submissions, but we saw with Wayne Rooney's appeal to Uefa that appeals can have some success.

"I would suggest that Suarez would have to show an element of contrition and remorse to have any success on appeal. So far, Liverpool have been very defensive and it won't do them any favours."

How far could Liverpool and Suarez theoretically take this? Could it move beyond the FA and towards the Court of Arbitration for Sport?

"I'm sure Liverpool will have some legal advice on the contingencies and how far this can be realistically taken if they plan for further appeal. The first step of appeal is the FA board, then Uefa and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"It is very premature to consider an appeal to CAS as the regulatory procedures are very clear. You have to exhaust all your rights to appeal below CAS. The only next step for now is to the appeal board of the FA."

Are there any precedents for a case like this?

"There is no obvious precedent for this. We have had clubs charged because of chanting by supporters but in those cases Uefa have taken action because it's the club's responsibility. In this case, it's just an incident relating to Suarez.

"The FA's Rule E – on which the Suarez case revolves – is the product of the very good work the FA has done with its anti-racism campaign in the last decade."

Could Liverpool be in legal trouble by claiming FA have an agenda against Suarez?

"Liverpool are skating on very thin ice for their statement released on Tuesday night, in which there is suggestion of a witch hunt and an agenda against the club. For Liverpool to question the neutrality of the IRC could get them into trouble for bringing the game into disrepute. It's jaw-dropping to suggest there is an agenda at work.

"They have sailed into very stormy waters and I would expect the FA to launch proceedings against Liverpool."

Could Liverpool be sued by Evra by questioning his credibility?

"It is undoubtedly defamatory of Liverpool towards Evra as the statement says something negative about him and his credibility.

"He could sue Liverpool, but he will wonder if there is any point. There are two purposes to a defamation case: damages and restoration of reputation. In general, credibility issues are not great for footballers.

"Both Evra and Liverpool could afford the lawyers but I don't see it as realistic."