LONDON — Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches and fined 40,000 pounds ($62,000) on Tuesday after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's black defender Patrice Evra.
An English Football Association panel decided that Evra's allegations that Suarez directed a racial insult at him during United's Premier League match at Liverpool on Oct. 15 had been proven.
"The insulting words used by Mr. Suarez included a reference to Mr. Evra's colour," the FA said in a statement, adding that the Liverpool forward had also been warned about his future conduct.
Reacting to the verdict on his Twitter account, Suarez said: "Today is a very difficult and painful day for both me and my family. Thanks for all the support, I'll keep working!..."
Liverpool, which had defender the player, said it was "very surprised and disappointed" with the verdict against the Uruguay forward.
"It is our strong held belief, having gone over the facts of the case, that Luis Suarez did not commit any racist act," Liverpool said.
"It appears to us that the FA were determined to bring charges against Luis Suarez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November," the statement added. "Nothing we have heard in the course of the hearing has changed our view that Luis Suarez is innocent of the charges brought against him and we will provide Luis with whatever support he now needs to clear his name."
The American-owned club claimed that Evra stressed in his written statement to the FA that "I don't think that Luis Suarez is racist" and said the governing body echoed that sentiment in its opening statement at the hearing.
"We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no one else on the field of play — including Evra's own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials — heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken," Liverpool said. "The club takes extremely seriously the fight against all forms of discrimination and has a long and successful track record in work relating to anti-racist activity and social inclusion. We remain committed to this ideal and equality for all, irrespective of a person's background.
The club pointed out that Suarez is "of a mixed race family background as his grandfather was black."
"He has been personally involved since the 2010 World Cup in a charitable project which uses sport to encourage solidarity amongst people of different backgrounds with the central theme that the color of a person's skin does not matter; they can all play together as a team," Liverpool said.
"It seems incredible to us that a player of mixed heritage should be accused and found guilty in the way he has based on the evidence presented. We do not recognize the way in which Luis Suarez has been characterized."
Liverpool drew the October match with United 1-1.
The FA said that the punishment was suspended, pending any appeal. "An appeal must be lodged within 14 days of the date of the written reasons for the decision," it added in the statement.
English football's anti-racism body said the case sent out a message to world football.
"The FA has shown leadership and intent through what has clearly been a difficult and complex complaint to deal with, and invested time and expertise to ensure this outcome," Kick It Out chairman Herman Ouseley said in a statement to The Associated Press. "It has demonstrated that it will not stand for discrimination, something organizations such as FIFA and UEFA should take heed of.
"Kick It Out will continue to work with clubs and players, at professional and grass roots level, offering education on what is deemed offensive and unacceptable behavior."