FA Cup - TV station says sorry for labelling Suarez a cheat

The TV station who broadcast Liverpool's FA Cup match against non-League Mansfield Town on Sunday have issued a statement apologising for a commentator calling Luis Suarez "a cheat".

FA Cup - TV station says sorry for labelling Suarez a cheat

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Liverpool's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (C) appears to handle the ball in the lead up to his goal during the FA Cup third round football match between Mansfield Town and Liverpool at Field Mill (AFP)

Jon Champion offered the opinion during a slow-motion replay of what proved to be the decisive goal in the match. The Uruguayan striker used his hand to control the ball and slot past the goalkeeper in an astonishingly blatant manner, though in the heat of the moment the referee and both his assistants failed to spot the offence.

To add further insult, Suarez then celebrated by kissing his hand in front of the Mansfield fans. While it is a well-established mode of celebration for the striker, perhaps he might have showed his joy in some other fashion given the circumstances.

While commentating on the slow-motion replay, veteran commentator Champion said, "that, I'm afraid, is the work of a cheat."

Liverpool fans were up in arms over the comment, despite the incontrovertible fact that Suarez had indeed cheated.

And perhaps it was with those fans in mind that ESPN put out this statement: "We take our responsibility to deliver the highest standards of coverage to our viewers. ESPN’s editorial policy is for commentators to be unbiased and honest, to call things as they see them.

"Inevitably this can involve treading a fine line on occasion, especially in the heat of the moment. Comments during the Mansfield v Liverpool match caused offence where none was intended and we have spoken to our commentator about this incident."

Many neutrals once chuckled at the player's gall in pulling off a similar trick at a critical moment of a World Cup quarter-final, but adding a second goal against a non-league team living their dream in an FA Cup third round clash is a very different matter.

The fact that Mansfield's dream of beating a top flight side - or even earning a lucrative replay at Anfield - were ultimately undone by that goal make the whole affair bitterer still.

Yet both the managers, Brendan Rodgers and Paul Cox, played down the incident saying that it wasn't Suarez's place to call foul on himself.

Having said all that, Champion's words might still seem perfectly fair comment: after all, there is no doubt that Suarez cheated, and there is no doubt that it is far from the first time.

In an age when many commentators are derided for being bland, it seems a shame for Champion's employers not to back his right to call it as he sees it without fear or favour.

What do you think? Are ESPN right to apologise for Jon Champion's commentary? Or was he out of line to go so far as to label Suarez a cheat? Have your say below.

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