HONESTY, so the saying goes, is the best policy. But Brendan Rodgers fears Luis Suarez’s frank confession of diving could hamper Liverpool’s attempts to climb up the Premier League table.
Speaking to an Argentine television station this week, Suarez took the unusual step of admitting he dived in a failed effort to win a penalty against Stoke City at Anfield in October.
It prompted a further flurry of debate surrounding the controversial Uruguayan, with Stoke manager Tony Pulis renewing his call for retrospective action to be taken against players guilty of simulation.
Suarez was not booked by referee Lee Mason for the offence earlier this season, and the Football Association will take no further action over the matter.
And while Rodgers yesterday insisted the matter will be dealt with internally, the player will not be hit with a club fine.
There has been a nagging suspicion within Anfield this season that Suarez’s reputation has led to a number of stonewall penalties not being given for Liverpool, although the one they have been awarded was for a foul on the striker in the 3-1 Boxing Day defeat at Stoke.
And Rodgers hopes Suarez’s admission doesn’t influence the minds of officials for the remainder of the campaign, starting at home to Norwich City tomorrow – a team against which the forward netted successive hat-tricks last year.
“It’s been difficult for us this season with regards penalties – we’ve only had one,” says the Northern Irishman. “The team always going into every game looking to win in the best possible way and sporting manner, and we don’t want that to change.
“But this situation might affect people’s thinking. I’m not saying it will do, but it could do. It might make people think twice about it and that’s certainly something we don’t want.
“The team puts maximum effort into the game and I wouldn’t want second thoughts going into anybody’s mind.
“I have got a brilliant group here and anything detrimental towards that is not something I take lightly. If that is something that I feel affects the team, then that is the clear message I will put out.
“I need to protect that club and the group and if anything puts that in jeopardy I will deal with that. Luis is aware of my feelings.”
Rodgers adds: “Most players wait until the end of their careers when they are writing their books to put it in. He has been honest enough to come out and say it in the middle of his career.
“I’ve spoken to Luis on it. I’m not sure it makes a big difference if we are saying he is fined one week’s, two weeks’ or four weeks’ wages.
“The bottom line is that from my perspective as the manager and leader of the club is that it was wrong to say what he said. It was not acceptable.”
Rodgers has taken a consistently dim view on diving and criticised Suarez in the immediate aftermath of the Stoke flashpoint in October.
“Whatever way you look at it, it’s something in the game that we are trying to clean up,” he says.
“Personally, my own feeling as the manager of this club is that it (the dive) was wrong. It’s something we will deal with internally.
“I don’t think I’ve been put in a difficult position. I’ve only ever called it honestly. I have defended him when I feel it is right and will continue to do that. Luis and I have a strong relationship and he understands that and knows that.
“In fairness to Luis, there have been times when he has knocked on my door and apologised. He got booked for a handball (against Southampton) earlier this season and it was instinctive.
“But Jordan Henderson could have scored and Luis was straight in the day after to apologise. He is not malicious. It is just his nature and how he is.”
Stoke manager Pulis stated immediately after the final whistle of the goalless draw in October that Suarez should be hit with a lengthy suspension by the FA.
And yesterday he called for a panel to sit on a Monday immediately after the weekend games to act to ensure diving is eradicated from the game.
“They should look at it on a Monday after games and then people who have got caught simulating, they should be punished,” says Pulis.
"There should be a panel.
“If you punish them for three games, four games, five games or whatever, it takes it out of the referee's hands.
“There should be a rule that if a player is found blatantly diving to gain advantage, whether to get a penalty or to con a referee into giving a decision, it should be dealt with severely. It would soon stop it. It's cheating.”
Pulis adds: "I saw Aston Villa v Southampton and the Southampton lad gets a penalty after diving. Afterwards, Paul Lambert takes a hell of a lot of stick for losing a game of football but he hasn't lost it in an honest way.
“The system is not right. That player should be brought to task and should be punished for cheating because that's what he did.”
Pulis, though, stopped short of suggesting how Suarez should be dealt with by Liverpool.
“Let Brendan deal with it,” says Pulis. “He's an honest guy and has the task of running Liverpool. I'm not going to tell him what to do, just like I'm not going to tell Southampton's Nigel Adkins what to do.”