Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Legal Hypocrisy in the Terry & Suarez Race Rows

The two biggest football racism scandals in recent years have been, and will be, tried in very different ways.
First, there is the FA judicial process endured by Suarez. He was found guilty and banned for eight matches, a punishment which is almost certain to be challenged as to its legality by Liverpool FC. To get to the bottom of this legality, and the contrast to the Terry case, it is important to understand how guilt versus innocence is judged in the British system. There are two main processes. In the civil courts they refer to "the balance of probabilities". The winner of a civil case is the one who convinces the judge that their story is more than 50% likely to be true. In a criminal case, such as John Terry's, the crime must be proven "beyond reasonable doubt", or close to 100% certain, before the defendant can be found guilty. 
The FA have obviously gone down the civil law route with Suarez in coming to their judgement. Immediately you can see the unfairness in relation to how the Terry matter has been dealt with. 50.1% certainty to 99% certainty is a very big step indeed.
In any case, let's go down the civil route with Suarez and explore where the "balance of probabilities" lie. The alleged offence took place in a crowded goalmouth as a corner was being taken. It is reasonable to expect, therefore, that a conversation between the two players would have been overheard by at least one other person. All of the evidence we have heard suggests that it was not. Therefore, surely, the "balance of probabilities" is in favour of Luis Suarez.
Had the CPS looked at the Suarez case in the same manner that they have looked at Terry's, there is no way that they would have proceeded with a prosecution. There is not enough evidence for the case to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt. As it stands, Suarez must fight through a civil judicial process which appears to make up its punishments as it goes along.
In terms of the next steps, Liverpool must lodge an appeal with the FA within 14 days. That appeal will be heard and, from the FA's perspective, the case will then be closed. However, there is a body that can overrule the FA's decision - the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The CAS may find this case hard to overrule, given its subjectivity. The CAS tend to look into whether the correct legal steps were taken and whether all processes and procedures are legally watertight. For example, in the recent case of Wen Tong, a Judo star who was stripped of a gold medal for doping, the CAS ruled in her favour because the anti-doping agency had violated certain articles of the Judo federation's rules and regulations during her initial prosecution.
In the case of Suarez, there is no evidential breach of procedure by the FA. What is being contested is a subjective judgement. Whether the CAS would get involved in such a case is questionable.
 
Meanwhile, the Terry case will be judged on whether it is beyond reasonable doubt that he abused Ferdinand racially. This is much harder to prove than his guilt on the balance of probabilities would be. So what happens next? Terry will appear in a Magistrates court to try to clear his name. If he succeeds, the FA is likely to side with the official judicial process. If he fails, he will get a £2,500 fine and the FA will have a political green light to hand him a similar punishment to that given to Suarez.
The key point of difference is that Suarez hasn't been given this opportunity to clear his name in a court of law.  The FA have played judge and jury and he will find the system incredibly difficult to break down. Put simply, the way both cases have been handled is completely unfair.
If any club know how to win a court battle, it is Liverpool FC. The club will stand shoulder to shoulder with Suarez and do absolutely everything to help him clear his name.
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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Graft, Craft and How to Fill "The Lucas Role"

Getting the right mix of grafters and crafters is vital to a team's success. A grafter is the type of player who makes up for any failings in natural technical ability through sheer blood, guts and endeavour. Think Dirk Kuyt. On the opposite end of the scale you have crafters, players who have a very high level of technical ability but are are more tactile in their play. Jordan Henderson fits into this box.

Liverpool's squad has many players who immediately strike you as being on one end of the scale or the other. In the graft box I would place Lucas, Kuyt, Carroll, Carragher, Flanagan, Kelly, Bellamy, Spearing and Skrtel. In the craft box I would place Maxi, Adam, Henderson, Enrique, Auerlio, Johnson, Coates, Downing and Shelvey. Then you have the players who you can't really put in either box, since they excel in both areas: Suarez, Gerrard and Agger.

I have plotted the players dependant on how far towards one end of the scale I perceive them to be:



The higher up on the chart a player sits, the better (subjectively!) he is. The further to the left or right he sits, the more of a grafter or a crafter he is. Kuyt is on the far left, Henderson on the far right. At various positions along the top are the four truly world class players we have, the spine of our team. Lucas is the only world class player we have who is on one extremity of the scale, and the very nature of his position demands this. Like Mascherano, Gatusso and Makelele, Lucas is a world class grafter.

With this in mind, when looking for a direct replacement for Lucas you surely have to pick from the 'graft' box. This immediately discounts Shelvey, Adam and Henderson since the qualities these players possess are not applicable to the demands of the role. 

In working this through you get to two possible solutions for how to solve the problem of filling the "Lucas role". The first observation is that we have three players who are of high value and tick the "graft" box in central defence. We also have two players in the "craft" box who are our highest value full backs. This blend suits a 3-5-2 formation, with five from Adam, Henderson, Kuyt, Spearing, Bellamy, Maxi, Downing, Suarez, Carroll, Gerrard and Shelvey filling the other positions on the field. Who Kenny picks from that list depends on whether craft or graft is most suited to the occasion. Gerrard and Suarez are certain starters regardless of the opposition since they excel in both areas and are, at their best, world class. This system probably leaves no room for Spearing as his role will be covered off by the extra centre back. Here is how it could look whilst Gerrard is still out:



The second solution is to maintain the 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation and put in a direct replacement for Lucas. For this you need a player with high energy, good tackling ability and a cool head. Step forward Jay Spearing. He has all of these qualities in his game. The question is whether he can perform at a high enough level to be able to compensate for Lucas's loss.

The example I will draw on to answer this question is Lucas himself. The same questions being asked of him in replacing Mascherano are now being asked of Spearing in replacing Lucas. It is a classic case of apprentice turned master. Lucas stepped up to the plate, and so can Spearing. The dream scenario is for our future academy graduates, like Conor Coady, to look up to Spearing as a master of his art. If you think this sounds fanciful, read through the fans forum posts on Lucas from 2009. Only two years ago he was a figure of widespread ridicule. Here is the familiar looking shape with Spearing replacing Lucas:



Whichever way Kenny goes, the great thing is that he has options. There is a plan B if plan A fails. Plan A for me is for Spearing to come in and make the role his own. In that scenario, at least some good will have come from Lucas's poor fortune.
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