As an Everton fan, nothing delighted me more than seeing Luis Suarez taking a chunk out of an opponent with his teeth, and ending up banned for the Merseyside Derby. On top of that, the striker received a ten-match ban, effectively eliminating him from the rest of the season.

Now, imagine that, in your workplace, someone takes a bite out of a colleague, or worse, a customer. You would have no hesitation in firing that person on the spot, and with good reason. It is highly unlikely there would be mitigating circumstances, and no, hunger does not count. On top of this, Suarez has history – a lengthy ban last season for racism, and a previous ban in the Netherlands for, you guessed it, biting an opponent.

But Luis Suarez is still a Liverpool employee, and despite getting a 10-game ban from the FA, thus ending his season and keeping him out of the first SIX games of next season, they’re defending him. His actions have endangered success at the club, yet all Suarez is getting is a fine and an extended summer holiday. Why do football clubs frequently fall on the other side of the “firing fence” when it comes to discipline?

What is an employee worth to you?

One of the principal differences between football and the real world is that a footballer can generate money for a club without even lifting a foot. One of the reasons clubs wanted to sign non-player Michael Owen was that he would pay for his salary through shirt sales. Indeed, shirt sales was one of the key motivations behind Chelsea’s otherwise mysterious £50m acquisition of Fernando Torres, a player who disappoints frequently on the field, yet in the boardroom, continues to be a financially sound investment.

When Real Madrid bought Cristiano Ronaldo, his transfer fee was covered off by the 1 million Ronaldo shirts sold.

Footballers have a brand, and owning that brand in itself can bring significant wealth. Suarez is only the fifth most popular shirt purchase in the UK, though – behind his colleague Stephen Gerrard. So maybe he has another kind of value?

Does football understand Pareto?

Perhaps football really does understand the 80/20 rule – and Liverpool are trying to get 80% of their wins from the 20% of the time that their key asset is available? The stats don’t match exactly, but the club are surely building Suarez’s future absence into their plans. Given his record, they are surely aware that their star player will be banned for a stretch of at least 8 games each season. If Liverpool are to play 50 games in a season, including cup games, then they will be without him for at least 16% of the season. With minor injuries, fatigue and other miscellaneous suspensions, let’s call it 25%.

Therefore, Liverpool believe that even if Suarez is available just 75% of the time, that’s better than not having him.

Can you, in your workplace, imagine having to balance the prospect of your top sales performer only being available 75% of the time you’ve contracted him or her to work? You may consider that, given the revenue stream brought in by that person, a 25% down time might be acceptable.

Then there’s the investment. A football player isn’t just an employee, he’s an asset. This is why the leading clubs have been allowed to pile up debt – they have assets that would pay off the debt several times over. Liverpool have invested a heavy transfer fee in Luis Suarez, and would want to see that repaid in multiples through their various marketing channels before off-loading him – or alternatively, repaid through an inflated transfer fee.

However, what about the precedents…

Workplace violence is on the up, according to the Health and Safety Executive. And that was before the Suarez incident.

So, imagine the scene. Your top sales performer, Mandy, takes a bite out of her marketing colleague, Sarah, during a water-cooler argument about last night’s Emmerdale (or something). Sarah, while not bleeding, is showing visible bite marks on her arm, and is clearly in shock.

Mandy apologises, and you take the Suarez option – send her home for a few weeks, dock her a few weeks’ salary, but you choose not to fire her because Mandy brings in several million pounds’ worth of business every year. She’s that good. She has brought accounts that you could only dream of, and has helped grow the business significantly.

But she’s a biter. 

Two months later, in a completely separate incident, Wayne from Finance has a disagreement with Mike from Operations, and “does a Mandy”, biting him on the arm. Wayne’s not a top performer, but he knows you’ve set a precedent. He can’t get fired for biting a colleague, because Mandy didn’t get fired. Firing Wayne now would send out signals that not everyone in the organisation is equal, and that you lack consistency in your approach to office discipline.

… which means Liverpool need to do the right thing

Liverpool need to do the right thing, but firing him makes no financial sense. The right thing, therefore, is to transfer list him and sell him. Tell him that he has no place at the club, and refuse to play him again.

The right thing would be to send a message out to all employees and players, saying “we don’t condone violence on the pitch, and anyone who does it will leave the club.”

Not doing so promotes the idea that the club stands behind players who commit acts of violence – and worse, if a less important player were to be fired for an equivalent (or less harmful) act of violence, then it would promote the idea that not everyone at the club is equal. While footballers are acutely aware of this already through the relatively open salary system, you don’t want to leave yourself open to rumour and gossip, which would surely spread, creating bad feeling and potentially pushing others out of the door.

Finally, this would force the club to look beyond its dependence on a player who is absent for at least a quarter of his contractual working hours. They could then divert his transfer fee and salary towards other, less violent, colleagues while avoiding future HR flashpoints. The irony is that Luis Suarez is “considering his future” at the club, whereas it should be the club who are considering his future.