PM backs action over pitch violence

Suarez and Ivanovic
Luis Suarez (right) and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic (left) on the ground Photo: Press Association

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that it was right that "tough penalties" should be handed out for violent behaviour on the football pitch, like Liverpool striker Luis Suarez biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

Mr Cameron declined to say whether he felt the 10-match ban handed down by the Football Association was appropriate, but said it must be recognised that players like Suarez are role models to young children such as his football-mad son Elwen.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has suggested that the PM's intervention in the Suarez affair may have contributed to the harshness of the FA's disciplinary action, after Mr Cameron's spokesman said last week that it would be "understandable" if the sport's authorities took into account the fact that its stars were role models to the young.

Speaking earlier, Mr Cameron said: "I made my own views clear just as a dad watching the game. I've got a seven-year-old son who loves football, loves watching football. When players behave like this, it just sets the most appalling example to young people in our country."

Mr Cameron said he would leave the level of the punishment entirely to the Football Association: "That's up to the FA, it's not my decision. The FA make the decision. They are entirely independent and that's the way it should work."

But he added: "If you are asking me as a dad, as a human being, do I think we should have tough penalties when football players behave like this? Yes, I think we should.

"There are some people, I've read in some newspapers, who think that somehow this is not serious. It is serious, when we are trying to bring up our children properly and they love football, they do look at football players as role models and we have to recognise that."

Mr Cameron declined to discuss whether he had ever had to deal with biting by his own children.

"I don't want to get into my child-rearing skills," he said. "I'm not saying I've got all the answers. We all struggle. It's very hard - bringing up children is one of the toughest things we do and there's lots of advice around, some of it quite contradictory.

"But the fact is you can't wrap them in cotton wool and hide them away from the world. They do see these real-life examples and they repeat them back to you."

Following the announcement of the 10-match ban, Rodgers suggested on Thursday that the disciplinary panel had been influenced by public comments about the incident, including by the Prime Minister.

"Everyone has their opinion - which is normal. People will be emotional in their statements - former players of the club and ex-players of other clubs having their opinions - the Prime Minister even chipped in, which is a different matter altogether," he said.

"It is the first time I have ever heard of an independent inquiry being dictated to by so many people."