Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez Takes a Bite out of the Opposition

Luis Suarez (c) Jimmy Baikovicius used under a common licenceIf you follow football (or soccer for our American readers) you’ve probably heard about the incident involving Luis Suarez and his teeth in the World Cup group game between Uruguay and Italy. For those who don’t know, Suarez has been accused of biting one of the Italian players during the game, and the video evidence appears to back up the claim.

You may be scratching your head as to why this article is on a poker based site, but there is a very good reason. In May, before the World Cup began, 888 Poker announced Luis Suarez as an ambassador. Even at the time comments appeared on forums about this deal that expressed surprise and dismay at the signing of the Uruguayan.

You see, this isn’t the first time that Suarez has been in the media for things that have put him in a less than positive light. According to Wikipedia, back in 2010, Suarez began his journey to infamy when, while playing for Dutch club Ajax, he bit Otman Bakkal during a game against PSV Eindhoven. Ajax suspended Luis Suarez for two games, and fined him an “undisclosed amount.”

But biting opposition players isn’t the only quirk of this highly talented footballer. In October 2011, after his move to Liverpool, Suarez was charged by the English Football Association (FA) of racially abusing Patrice Evra during a game against Manchester United. After an investigation, and a seven-day hearing, Suarez was found guilty by a three-person FA panel. For his racially abuse comments, Suarez was handed an eight-game ban, which was soon followed with a single-game ban for an obscene gesture made towards Fulham fans in February.

Suarez was back to his old tricks in April 2013 when during a Premier League game against Chelsea, he was apparently caught biting Branislav Ivanović on camera. While the officials at the game missed the incident, Luis was charged by the FA with Violent Conduct. Following another investigation and hearing, Suarez was issued a 10-game ban, and was chastised by the panel for not taking the issue seriously enough. The panel also wanted to send a “strong message that such deplorable behaviours do not have a place in football.”

While the FIFA panel investigating the most recent biting attack was unable to make a decision following their hearing yesterday, they are going to be continuing their deliberations today, and a statement is expected from them later today.

888 have not been quiet either. While they have stopped short of ending their relationship with Suarez, they have issued the following statement, on social media, and also on 2+2:

Reading between the lines, it seems likely that 888 will be terminating Suarez’s contract if he is found guilty. While this seems to be undoubtedly the correct decision, the question has to be asked, with Suarez’s history, why was he signed to a deal in the first place?

There has been a move to sign more sponsored players from fields outside of poker, and for the most part, it’s a good marketing strategy. Rafa Nadal’s signing by PokerStars was a coup that is working out well, and attracting decent media coverage and player approval.

888 LogoIt’s pretty easy to see the thought process that made Suarez attractive to 888. He’s a highly skilled football player, with his own following, both in the UK, and around the world. He has name recognition even to those who don’t religiously follow the game, and he was fighting to come back for the World Cup following a serious knee operation. If you just look at those factors, he’s a PR guy’s wet dream.

The thing is, it only takes a 30-second internet search to find out that Luis Suarez could easily turn from a PR dream, to a PR nightmare. I’d have expected 888 to do it’s due diligence on their new high profile signing, and if they did, it’s a damning indictment on the decision making process at 888.

We will have to wait and see what FIFA decide to do about this, and how 888 react to their decision. Others I’ve spoken to see this as a chance for 888 to earn some serious kudos by dropping Suarez, regardless of any action taken by FIFA. His actions in Brazil have to be considered to hurt the 888 brand, and as such I can’t imagine a contract that wouldn’t give the company the option to terminate his deal if he brought  the 888 brand into disrepute.

We will have to wait and see what happens, and FlushDraw will keep you up to date if anything changes.

<EDIT> Just as we published this article, we have seen reports that Luis Suarez has been issued a four-month ban for this incident. We will let you know what happens with 888 when they issue a statement.

<Edit 2> Earlier today, 888 announced that due to Suarez’s actions, his contract with the company was being terminated. The Tweet confirming this is below:

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