LIVERPOOL, England, February 14 – Liverpool denied Tuesday reports they’d apologised for Luis Suarez’s conduct at Old Trafford as a result of pressure from shirt sponsors Standered Chartered bank.
Uruguay striker Suarez sparked fresh uproar last weekend when he refused to shake the hand of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, having only recently returned from an eight-game ban for racially abusing the French defender.
Liverpool subsequently apologised for Suarez’s conduct but, having steadfastly supported their forward up until that point, there were suspicions they had been pressured into taking action by Standard Chartered, who are currently half-way through a four-year deal worth £81 million ($128 million).
However, Liverpool insisted Tuesday that managing director Ian Ayre and manager Kenny Dalglish had not been prompted by anyone from outside Anfield.
“Ian Ayre kept Standard Chartered fully informed of developments over the course of the weekend,” said a Liverpool statement. “The actions the club decided to take on Sunday were supported by Standard Chartered.”
A Standard Chartered statement Sunday said: “We were very disappointed by Saturday’s incident and have discussed our concerns with the club.”
It has been suggested the club’s American-based owners, Fenway Sports Group, only became fully aware of the severity of the Suarez situation when reports appeared in the US press.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson branded Suarez’s conduct ahead of Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat on Saturday a disgrace, while Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor called the Liverpool star’s actions “disrespectful, inappropriate and embarrassing”.
Suarez finally showed some contrition in a statement expressing his regret for his actions.
“I have spoken with the manager (Kenny Dalglish) since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong,” Suarez said Sunday on Liverpool’s official website.
“I’ve not only let him down, but also the club and what it stands for and I’m sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened.
“I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions.
Ayre added: “We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday’s (Saturday’s) game. The player had told us beforehand that he would, but then chose not to do so,” Ayre said.
“He was wrong to mislead us and wrong not to offer his hand to Patrice Evra.
“He has not only let himself down, but also Kenny Dalglish, his team-mates and the club. It has been made absolutely clear to Luis Suarez that his behaviour was not acceptable.”
And, later on Sunday, Dalglish said: “Ian Ayre has made the club’s position absolutely clear and it is right that Luis Suarez has now apologised for what happened at Old Trafford.
“To be honest, I was shocked to hear that the player had not shaken hands having been told earlier in the week that he would do.”