One of the standout stars of the 2014 World Cup, and the man responsible for the two goals which effectively ended England’s World Cup dream, Louis Suarez was last week banned for 9 football matches for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
The incident has caused a global storm, creating debate in all areas of our lives, including employment law. If this was a workplace, what would the consequences be?
Footballers are paid by their clubs, their sponsors and for any other commercial activity. Taken in this sense, footballers are employees. So what would happen if someone in your office was to bite a colleague? They would almost certainly dismissed as a result of gross misconduct, and could even face criminal charges, as the incident would technically count as assault.
Playing for the national side rather than his club it could be argued that the incident occurred outside of work, which wouldn’t lead to a firing. However, if the employer’s reputation was at risk (and Suarez’s ban will certainly have an impact on his next season starting games for Liverpool), there could still be consequences. It could also be argued that as this is not Suarez’s first incident of this nature, has he had his third strike?
Should Liverpool choose to dismiss Suarez, there could be legal repercussions on both sides owing to contractual obligations. From a HR perspective, it would be important to seek advice and services such as employee tribunal support and more to protect the wellbeing of the individual and the company. If Suarez’s actions are as a result of deeper mental or behavioural problems, then a company should certainly make the effort to provide counselling and other help.
FIFA have announced that Uruguay are to appeal the decision.