Luis Suarez’s actions would have usually constituted Gross Misconduct
It is possible for Uruguay footballer Luis Suarez to face breach of contract claims from his employer following the recent accusation of biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup.
The incident took place during the Uruguay v Italy game on 24th June 2014. FIFA have confirmed that they are initiating disciplinary proceedings against the player. If Suarez is found guilty he could face a ban up to 24 games or 2 years.
It is possible that Suarez could also be dismissed from his position at Premiership team Liverpool F.C even though the incident did not take place whilst he was representing them?
If Suarez would have committed this act in his work environment then it is usually an employer’s position that this behaviour would constitute gross misconduct for the assault and/or bringing his employer into disrepute (despite the fact the incident occurred when he was not playing for his employer Liverpool Football Club)
If the matter has occurred outside of work and is not connected to it for example in the form of a work social the issue for any ‘normal’ employer would usually be whether the actions of the employee had brought the business into disrepute.
It could easily be said that in this case he has done just that. Let’s not forget that this is the second time an incident like this has occurred since he’s been with Liverpool (and his third overall); Would Liverpool is willing to stand by him again despite the risk to their reputation?
However In this situation Liverpool F.C is not a ‘normal employer’. If they were to dismiss Suarez they would lose out on the potentially huge transfer fees (it is common knowledge that affluent clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid are looking to make significant bids on the player) and such are very unlikely to want to lose the value of Suarez who can ultimately be viewed as an asset of the Club.
Breach of Contract
Suarez could also face a claim for breach of contract with Liverpool F.C if any potential ban meant that he was unable to fulfil his contract with the club (Whilst a FIFA ban would normally only apply to FIFA organised competitions there is a power for FIFA to extend the ban to all games if they deem the offence sufficiently serious)
Much of this will depend on the decision FIFA make – which is expected at some point today; if the ban imposed is long enough that Suarez is unable to fulfil his contract that then Liverpool F.C could claim for the frustration of said contract (although it this is unlikely).
A similar situation occurred in the case of player Adrian Mutu who was dismissed by Chelsea F.C after he incurred a 7 month ban for failing a drugs test. Mutu was ordered to pay Chelsea F.C £14m for failure to fulfil his contract after they sacked him for gross misconduct. They then sought to recover the transfer fee they had paid due to his own misconduct.
With all the media attention this incident has generated on a global scale it will be interesting to see how Liverpool F.C decide to handle this situation in relation to their most high profile employee.
Since this article has been written FIFA have announced the outcome of Suarez’s disciplinary panel.