CAS confirms Suarez ban, UEFA victimizes Legia Warsaw

By Paul Gardner

So the four-month ban on Luis Suarez, imposed for his biting of Giorgio Chiellini, will stand. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) turned his appeal down. No surprise there, really.

However one might rationalize the bite and attempt to trivialize it -- not like breaking someone’s leg, now is it? -- there’s no escaping the fact that most people find biting a highly unpleasant offense.

It’s certainly not common is soccer -- in fact, Suarez seems to have cornered the market for the moment -- though it occurs more often in rugby, where there have been cases that did involve severe physical injury, like fingers or parts of ears being bitten off. Then there was Mike Tyson ...

Any lingering sympathy for Suarez is probably erased because he’s a proven serial offender. This is his third toothy assault. The guy evidently needs treatment. No doubt Barcelona will see he gets it. One more bite, and he could find himself banned for a whole season.

My feeling is that the soccer judges have got this one about right -- neither a lenient wrist-slap nor a harsh whipping. But a strong warning. And it’s not all that often that these decisions made by the various (and invariably anonymous) sporting courts are so satisfying.

As though to remind us that these star chambers are still in the business of handing down spectacularly silly and unfair verdicts, we have the case of the Polish club, Legia Warsaw.

Legia, having beaten Glasgow Celtic 6-1 over two legs of a UEFA Champions League qualifier, has been rewarded for its evident superiority by being thrown out of the tournament. The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body (anonymous -- but how’s that for a title?) found Legia guilty of fielding an ineligible player for the final three minutes of the second leg, won 2-0 by Legia.

So Celtic was awarded a 3-0 victory; add that to the 4-1 loss Celtic suffered in Poland, and you get a 4-4 tie, with Celtic going through on that away goal.

The player concerned, Bartosz Bereszynski, had earlier been handed a three-game ban by UEFA. Which Legia believed he had served -- indeed, he had sat out three games. But Legia had committed a terrible infringement of the UEFA regulations. Prepare to stagger back in horror. In two of the games for which he was banned, and in which he did not play, or suit up, Legia had omitted to include his name on the roster.

Well, the uncompromising UEFA Control, Ethics etc swooped down like a starving hawk on this juicy tidbit of a technicality. Out of the tournament went Legia, and just to show that there’s nothing soft-hearted about the UEFA Control etc, it ruled that Bereszynski still owed them a two-game suspension, and it then added on a new one-game suspension for ... well, for what? Does “spite” sound about right? Probably not -- plain stupidity will do.

Does common sense count for nothing with these powerful judges? Who on earth was going to complain if the UEFA etc merely fined Legia for an oversight and allowed it to take up the place in the UCL that it had handsomely earned on the field?

Can one imagine Celtic, humiliated 6-1, making a big stink if that result -- tarnished only by a meaningless oversight -- were allowed to stand?

Legia has said it will take the matter to CAS. But can we rely on CAS -- having behaved so sensibly in the Suarez case -- to get things right twice in a row? I would hope so, but I doubt it.

9 comments about "CAS confirms Suarez ban, UEFA victimizes Legia Warsaw".
  1. KC Soccer Dad, August 15, 2014 at 7:49 a.m.

    See what happens when you try to to enforce the letter of the law instead of the spirit? Are you sure you want referees to do the same? This article wholly supports the attempts at sensible behavior of referees worldwide because it says that sometimes it is better to not enforce the letter of the law.

  2. ROBERT BOND, August 15, 2014 at 8:08 a.m.

    wow, actually trying to control ineligible players? in a country like ours, where so many kids are obviously older than their questionable documents, we apparently don't care, so why should anyone else.....Suarez problem easy to fix, make him play with a mouth guard, like every pro football & basketball player has to here.......

  3. jcr 3, August 15, 2014 at 9:21 a.m.

    I absolutely agree that Legia Warsaw should be in the UCL and that this violation was an innocent technicality and the player had served his 3 game suspension. I think this is a case of favoritism to a big club such as Celtic. The money being lost by Legia Warsaw is not insignificant. I believe it is at least $2.5 Million. UEFA and FIFA keep making statements of democratizing the game and spreading the game so as it is not dominated by these small group of big clubs and here they have an opportunity to actually just do what's right and do just that, but instead play favorites to who has the most influence.

  4. Gus Keri, August 15, 2014 at 9:33 a.m.

    Here where I find UEFA's regulation unacceptable. The club, any club, should list the name of the banned player and not playing him, for the game to be counted. Why is this there to start with? If a player is registered with the club and the club didn't include him on the list, it should be automatically counted. Do they do the same thing with international games? should Suarez's name be listed in the next 8 Uruguay's game for the ban to be completed? This is a stupid regulation.

  5. Ron L, August 15, 2014 at 11:53 a.m.

    Somebody in within the player operations staff of the club screwed up. They should have not only verified his name on the roster each game but frankly should have followed up with UEFA to verify all games have been served. The reason he is to be listed on the roster is to make sure he is eligible (not injured) for those games.

    CAS should put Legia back in the tournament with a heavy fine and strongly suggest that Liega should make some changes in staff and how player suspensions are handled. That will be a fair and balanced punishment which other clubs will get the message that the administrative part of the game is as important as players at the professional level.

  6. John Soares, August 15, 2014 at 2:35 p.m.

    Ron, what you describe is just common sense. So simple it will never happen:).

  7. Jose Coyt, August 15, 2014 at 9:55 p.m.

    UEFA and FIFA rules have always been stupid when it comes to dealing with suspensions. The decisions seem to always favor the bigger clubs. I don't know how many of you have been involved in this area, but when I played in Jerez, Spain in the late 1980's, the club was required to submit a form for each game the suspended player was not playing. The form was submitted to the game official, who signed the form and verified that the player was NOT listed in the game roster. Funny how now they required the player to be listed and if they forget to list the player, they forfeit the game even though they know and can verify that the suspended player did not play. Common sense is not used...just a completely stupid decision to favor the stronger clubs......nothing has changed.

  8. G O, August 19, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.

    This is why people utterly dislike bureaucrats. Who cares about a mistake made by the coaching staff that saw a player on the pitch for three meaningless minutes? It's called an honest mistake - if it is even a slight mistake in the first place, which sounds very debatable. This is why governing bodies (be they for sport or for governing governance) are full of pointy headed nitwits. This Polish side bested Celtic and deserve to move on in the competition. What a shame. Moral: Dislike and never trust bureaucrats. Remove them from any place of decision making where possible.

  9. G O, August 19, 2014 at 2 p.m.

    Remember one is penalizing the fans too. They did nothing wrong. (Some probably spend enormous sums to go to the away match in Glasgow to aid that away victory.) The fans and local sponsors are the ones who prop up Legia, that new stadium they use (from Euro 2012) and that might be a nicer venue for upcoming UCL play. Perhaps UEFA should not be so certain and quick to dismiss Legia. Perhaps there is indeed more revenue to be gained from Polish fans more closely following UCL action versus Celtic's draw for British fans. Plus it might be the kick and reminder to Scotish football to fix itself, as it is been remarkably underperforming for a long time now.

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