Suarez bit the Chelsea defender during the 2-2 Premier League draw at Anfield, drawing widespread criticism but getting away with it at the time as the match officials apparently failed to see the incident.
He went on to score the equaliser but, with the video evidence clear, he is set for even more hot disciplinary water with the FA.
It is not the first time Suarez has sunk his teeth into an opponent – he was banned for seven matches by the Dutch FA for attacking PSV’s Otman Bakkal in what turned out to be the Uruguayan’s last match for Ajax.
Suarez could also be suspended for an alleged punch on Chile’s Gonzalo Jara, and he was famously suspended for eight matches last season for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
So what’s next for the FA and Suarez? Much depends on what – if anything – the officials saw ...
1. Suarez may get away with it completely
If referee Kevin Friend saw the coming together between Suarez and Ivanovic but decided it was not worthy of further action, Suarez will escape further action.
We saw this recently when Wigan’s Callum McManaman escaped punishment for a reckless challenge on Massadio Haidara of Newcastle, and when Manchester City's Sergio Aguero went two-footed into David Luiz of Chelsea.
We also saw this when Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe bit West Ham’s Javier Mascherano in a 2006 Premier League match – the closest precedent to this incident. In that clash referee Steve Bennett booked both players, meaning Defoe could not be punished further, according to the FA.
Suarez has also escaped a ban thanks to this loophole, when he stamped on Wigan’s David Jones earlier this season. The FA cites FIFA regulations for this policy, but it has been previously exposed as a flimsy argument as FIFA clearly allows for such errors to be overruled:
- FIFA disciplinary statute 77(a) states ‘The Disciplinary Committee is responsible for sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match ofﬁcials’ attention’
- FIFA disciplinary statute 77(b) allows for ‘rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions’
However, this is probably the second most likely scenario behind scenario 3, and the most likely if it transpires Friend saw the incident in full.
2. Suarez will be subjected to the ‘Ben Thatcher’ ruling
In the same season that saw Defoe escape further punishment for biting Mascherano, Manchester City defender Ben Thatcher was suspended after the FA overruled the match officials following a horrific challenge on Portsmouth’s Pedro Mendes.
That was deemed an “exceptional case” by the FA, which is a caveat in their regulations that allows them to dismiss a referee report if it is felt that there is a clear error.
Thatcher was only punished because his challenge caused Mendes serious injury; the FA’s preference – and it is a preference, not FIFA directive – is that referees and other officials not be undermined unless the health of a player or players is at risk.
In this case – and because Suarez has previous of both biting and racism – the FA may decide to ignore Friend’s report and suspend Suarez anyway. In this case, a three-match ban is recommended, but because Suarez served a suspension for racism last season, the FA may choose to extend it.
However, it would prove contradictory to precedent regarding Defoe, McManaman and Aguero, as Ivanovic was not injured and his health was not compromised by what is an act of petulance more than anything.
3. The match officials missed the bite, allowing the FA to punish Suarez without contradiction
It seems likely that Friend and his assistants simply did not see Suarez bite Ivanovic, in which case the FA can do what it likes.
Certainly Friend did not appear to react to the coming together until Ivanovic complained of being bitten; Friend was behind the play and may not have seen anything other than two players grappling in the area.
If this is indeed the case, it seems likely that Suarez will get a three-match ban for violent conduct.
However, this could be extended at the FA’s discretion because of the nature of the incident, and because Suarez was recently suspended for a serious offence. As seen with Joey Barton, if an incident shows a repeated inclination towards violent behaviour, it could end Suarez’s season or worse.
4. The FA reviews the incident and elects to warn Suarez
This seems to be the least likely scenario, particularly given Suarez’s reputation and rap-sheet.
If the officials missed the bite, and the FA look at the video footage and decide that it does not constitute violent conduct, all hell will break loose and the FA’s attempts to clamp down on poor behaviour would be seriously undermined.
If Friend failed to see the incident, Suarez will surely be banned and fined - but as we have seen before, the FA makes some odd decisions at times.
5. Liverpool could dispense with Suarez whatever the decision by the FA
He may be Liverpool’s best player, but Suarez is a liability. He will probably be banned for a large chunk of every season, if not for a stand-out incident of lunacy or violence but for totting up a seemingly endless stream of bookings.
He has got away with a couple of stamps this season – once against Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League, and the aforementioned incident involving Jones – and has been banned for racism, infamous handballs and of course biting.
He appears unable to control himself on the pitch, and utterly unrepentant off it. The negative publicity does not please Liverpool’s PR-obsessed American owners, and boss Brendan Rodgers will privately be furious that his star man is apparently uncontrollable. Rodgers is a ‘system’ coach, and a player so clearly a law unto himself cannot be relied upon to fit such a system.
Suarez is so good that he would be able to command a starting place at any club in the world, with the likes of Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain so dominant in their respective leagues that the odd suspension is not a major concern.
Liverpool look a much weaker side without Suarez and, if they are over-reliant on him, they cannot make sustained runs of good form if he is constantly suspended.
After the match Rodgers tellingly said “players are always replaceable no matter how good they think they are – this club is about respect”. If Suarez is deemed to have offended that sense of decorum one too many times, Liverpool could cut their losses and bring in a steadier option.
What do you think should happen to Suarez? Leave a comment at the foot of this article, or Tweet the author @Reda_Eurosport.