Suarez soap opera a reminder that football faces constant PR battle

Last summer reminded the world how sport can inspire, bring people together and create a positive mood despite the economic gloom.

London 2012 was everything Lord Sebastian Coe and the rest of the country hoped it would be - a celebration of sport and the best of Britain.

Fast forward a few months with the football season coming to an end and we've had another season full of controversy and bad behaviour that's a million miles away from the 'Beautiful Game'.

Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker, has been in the eye of the storm this weekend after appearing to bite a Chelsea opponent.

The Uruguayan has previous, having been banned for another biting offence while playing for Ajax in Holland.

Thankfully this time, his employers Liverpool have acted swiftly, condemning his actions, fining him and making him aware of the responsibilities he has as a footballer at one of the world's biggest clubs.

It follows Chelsea captain John Terry's refusal to shake the Football Association's David Bernstein last week and a number of incidences of hoolganism that all true fans hoped had been consigned to history.

And on Monday afternoon, Chelsea forward Yossi Benayoun wrote about the problems he has encountered since speaking about one of his team mates. Reading between the lines, it sounds as if on top of some booing, he has been the target of more vicious and perhaps even religiously-motivated abuse.

I used to be a sports journalist and the soap opera which is the Premier League is part of what makes it so exciting and so popular around the world.

Football is such an accessible sport and has an influence on so many different aspects of the community. Players speak of being role models but sometimes that gets forgotten in the heat of a match.

No one wants any sport, including football, to become sterile and lacking passion.

But it needs a strong hand at all levels if it is to finally let go of the controversy and bad headlines that blight our national sport every week.

The authorities have to come down hard on abuse, violence and hooliganism and be consistent about it if football is every to regain the clean cut image that it lost many many years ago.

That requires strong leadership at all levels, be it from club owners and managers right up to sponsors and the sport's administrators. 

And it will remain essential that everyone involved with the sport works hard to communicate the positive virtues that have made football so popular over the years.