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Apr 25, 2013

Rodgers: Luis Suarez ban too severe

Luis Suarez has been fined by Liverpool but told he has a future at the club after biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in a Premier League game on Sunday.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said Thursday the severity of Luis Suarez's 10-match ban has left the club "bitterly disappointed," and former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol criticized the Reds boss for continuing to support the Uruguay striker.

Suarez was issued the ban by the Football Association on Wednesday for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a Premier League match Sunday.

"It is the severity of the ban that has hurt most," said the Reds boss. "That is something we are bitterly disappointed with -- not so much the ban because everyone has seen it and Luis was very open and honest to know it was wrong.

"I felt it could have been 12 games but with a six-game ban and six games suspended, looking at his future behavior. I don't think anyone would have disagreed with that."

The sanction was imposed Wednesday by an independent regulatory commission on a charge of violent conduct against the Liverpool striker.

Liverpool has until midday Friday to appeal and will make its decision after receipt of the disciplinary panel's report.

Nicol, a former Liverpool defender and ESPNFC analyst, criticized Rodgers' handling of the incident, saying that Suarez has disgraced the club and the standards at Anfield are dropping.

"Brendan Rodgers is the face of the club," Nicol said. "He represents the fans, the players, the chairman and the rest of the board. Luis Suarez has absolutely let all these people down."

Rodgers has publicly backed the striker, saying: "he hasn't let me down one bit, not at all."

Nicol, a stalwart at Anfield who was part of the 1983-84 European Cup-winning side and played over 400 matches for the club, condemned Rodgers' support of a player who has a history of foul play.

"I'm disappointed that Brendan came out and said that. We all know the standards that Liverpool have set over the years, not only on this occasion but with the racial accusations against [Suarez] it seems to be a downward spiral with the standards at Liverpool."

With four EPL matches remaining on the calendar, Suarez is ruled out for the rest of the season.

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina called the ban "absurd, out of proportion and unfair."

Nicol said the club should accept the sanction and move on.

"Luis Suarez's actions are indefensible and any punishment given should be accepted," Nicol said.

Suarez bit Ivanovic on the upper right arm during the 2-2 draw at Anfield on Sunday. He wasn't sent off because the referee didn't see it.

It was not Suarez's first offense for biting an opponent. In November 2010, he was banned for seven matches for biting a PSV Eindhoven player in the Dutch league, earning the nickname "Cannibal of Ajax."

On that occasion, the 26-year-old sank his teeth into Otman Bakkal, and although that incident did not form any part of the FA's case as it was in a different country, the commission had the discretion to take his personal disciplinary history into consideration.

There is no standard minimum or maximum punishment for biting in football's disciplinary code, unlike rugby union, which has a 12-week recommended suspension for first offenses up to a four-year ban for the most serious biting offenses.

Suarez also was suspended for eight games in December 2011 for making racist insults toward Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during a match.

The FA has come down hard on Suarez, giving him a more severe ban than it handed to him and Chelsea captain John Terry (four matches) for racist abuse last season. It has parallels with a recent judgment in rugby league, when England international James Graham was banned for 12 games for biting an opponent during an Australian league game.

It's not as heavy, though, as the 12-game ban handed to Joey Barton after he clashed with Manchester City players after his sending-off for Queens Park Rangers on the final day of last season. In 1998, Paolo Di Canio -- the current Sunderland manager -- was suspended for 11 games for pushing a referee while playing for Sheffield Wednesday while David Prutton was banned for 10 matches in 2005 for shoving a referee after being sent off.

With his goals and performances this season, Suarez was starting to rehabilitate a reputation that was first damaged when he was sent off for a deliberate handball to prevent Ghana from scoring a late goal in a World Cup quarterfinal match in 2010. He was seen celebrating on the sideline when Ghana missed the spot kick and Uruguay advanced in a shootout.

His penchant for diving aside, even his critics had been starting to warm to one of the world's most gifted players. He is on the six-man shortlist for English football's Player of the Year award, compiled before Sunday's incident.

Nicol expects Suarez to remain at Anfield despite suggestions that the striker would look to make a move in the summer.

"I think he will stay. I think that what happened over the weekend with him biting Ivanovic has knocked his stock down," Nicol said. "I think it has also shown Luis Suarez that Liverpool are prepared to stand up for him whether it's right or whether it's wrong."

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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