In the mid 90s foreign players flocked to the English Premier League like Brits to sunny Benidorm. With them they brought style, skill, flair, character, and extravagant simulation; aka diving.
In the first Premier League season (1992/93) there were only 11 foreign players named in the starting line-ups for the first set of fixtures. Since then over 2,000 foreign players have graced the Premier League. So it’s no coincidence that the amount of simulation has increased as the years have gone on. I mean Jurgen Klinsmann would openly celebrate by showing the world he was a cheater when he scored a goal. It’s sadly now just become part of the beautiful game. You could even go as far as saying that the creators of Football Manager 2018 should put ‘diving ability’ as an attribute on player’s profiles.
I know that it’s not only foreign imports who try to con the referee with their acrobatics, of course some British players fall into that category too. But watching back matches from the 70s and 80s, such as the Chelsea vs Leeds FA Cup final in 1970 and the Liverpool vs Everton matches in the 80s, its clear that diving wasn’t a problem within the game. In fact most challenges in those era’s would now warrant an 8 match ban. Back then the game was known as a contact sport, so when tackles flew in, players accepted that it was part of the game. Players gave as good as they got. It was as important to have a player in your team who didn’t mind getting stuck in, as much as a goal scorer. Maybe that’s part of the problem. As the years have rolled by football has slowly become a non-contact sport. So as soon as players feel contact, however little, they will go down. To the point that certain players go down when their not even touched. You can’t get more non contact than that.
So next season the FA have decided to clamp down on diving once and for all. The good old FA. If I know the FA like I think I do, then I’m sure they’ll make this aspect of the game even more of a problem. Which in the end will just highlight the fact it’s impossible to stamp diving out of the game. The fact they said and I quote, ‘we are trying to prevent “Robert Snodgrass situations”’, proves my point. Do they understand that “a Robert Snodgrass situation” already has a term, it’s called ‘simulation’. Are we meant to use that term now? Are pundit’s supposed to say, “oh he’ s done a Robert Snodgrass.” The FA are apparently “formulating a process” that they hope will reverse the trend of more simulation in the English game. Oh great. I can’t wait to see what mess they make of this.
I have to agree with Sam Allardyce, the idea of a retrospective ban is ‘utter rubbish’. He goes on to make a valid point about what happens if the referees make a wrong decision, and how are the FA supposed to reverse those mistakes. It’s impossible to fix by just saying that they will be handing out a two game retrospective ban for those who try to cheat their way to a positive result. The problem is that 99% of football players will try to win at all costs, even if it involves trying to con the referee into making the wrong decision.
It happens at all levels, be it in the Premier League or on a Saturday playing for Chalfont St Peter against Uxbridge in the EVO-STIK League Southern Division One Central. Let’s take Victor Moses in the FA Cup final. If the referee had been tricked into thinking he had been fouled, and Chelsea went on to score the penalty to win the game, do you think Antonio Conte would have cared if his player had cheated his way to victory? I mean I’m glad the referee wasn’t conned by Moses’ attempts to win a penalty as I don’t think it’s right. But that’s not to say I don’t think it’s wrong to try and attempt to do it. He was sent off, and that was the price he had to pay to attempt to win his team a penalty.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino described Dele Alli as “a little bit naughty” after winning a penalty against Swansea. But he doesn’t care. His team won, and the three points are all that matters. I guarantee managers prefer 3 points in whatever manner. The prospect of losing a player for two games with this new banning system out weighs playing fairly, and drawing the game.
The retrospective ban will not stamp out diving in football. There’s too much at stake during those 90 minutes. You’re telling me you wouldn’t want your player to dive to win a penalty if it meant you would win the league, or finish in the top four, or even avoid relegation? Some of these dives would make the club tens of millions of pounds. And I’ll tell you something that you probably already know, but if a player had the opportunity to go down to win a penalty and decided not to as it was deemed as simulation, the manager and players would definitely voice their opinion on the matter after the game. They would not be giving that player a pat on the back, and saying well done for playing fairly. I’ve been in changing rooms after football matches where managers have lost it at players who chose to stay on their feet, when actually they could have gone down and won a penalty. Players are somewhat told to cheat, in order to win the game at all costs.
But here’s the main problem with the new retrospective diving bans . ‘Only incidents that result in a player winning a penalty or lead to an opponent being sent off – through either a direct red card or two yellow cards – will be punished.’ Are you kidding me? So unless the dive results in a penalty or a red card, there will be no retrospective action? So let me throw out a couple of scenarios that mean it’s deemed acceptable to cheat and get away with it.
1. A player dives just outside the box, the referee deems it to be a foul and awards a free kick in the 92nd minute. That teams set piece taker then executes a perfect free kick and scores. The team then win the game from the resulting free kick they won through cheating.
The FA will not be handing out a retrospective ban.
2. A player dives, the referee deems it to be a foul, and books the opposing defender. In the second half the player on a booking has to make an important tackle that he times wrong, and is shown another yellow card resulting in the team having to play with ten men.
The FA will not be handing out a retrospective ban for the player who dived for the first yellow card incident.
Already its a mess! Sadly there is only one way to try and stop simulation. It seems Allardyce must have read my last article. I know he’s a big fan. He says, “bring technology in, let us look at it on the day and then bring a sin bin in so we can put him in that for 10 minutes and then put him back on.” He’s right. The retrospective ban will be confusing and hard to implement, as the smallest touch can prove they haven’t dived but it still wasn’t enough contact to go down. It’s impossible to call most simulation attempts 100% correctly. The only retrospective bans they can give is if there is no contact at all, but that is still tough to clamp down on because of the speed of the game. If a player believes a challenge is coming they may try to prevent the foul and possible injury by jumping out of the tackle. In the act of avoiding the tackle they may lose their balance, but it doesn’t mean they have attempted to dive. It’s clear when a player dives, and referees are there to spot these moments.
Ultimately bringing in retrospective banning won’t mean it will stamp diving out of the game. Because this new law won’t actually effect the game in real time. A team that loses because of an opposing player diving don’t care if that player is then banned for the next two games as it doesn’t change the most important thing. The result. And what if that team are then playing their rivals in the next game and are unable to play there best player? That means the team who lost the game through an opposing player diving gets punished again. Not only that. If a player gets sent off due to an opposing player diving, that team still has to play a Premier League game with ten men for a period of the match. They are then punished for an opposing player cheating. After the final whistle is blown that team won’t care about retrospective action. The game has finished and the result stands.
The retrospective ban will not work fairly, and that’s the whole point of trying to solve diving within the game. Like me and Big Sam said, the only way is to find a solution is by using video technology during the actual game. That would definitely make players think twice about attempting to fool the referee into making a wrong decision. The idea of a sin bin could also work, like in Rugby. If a player is shown to have dived without any contact, the referee would place that player into a 10 minute sin bin. Players and fans will soon become fed up of playing with 10 men for long periods of the game. Chelsea fans quickly grew tired of Didier Drogba‘s embarrassing attempts to throw himself to the ground, and began to boo him when he kept trying to win cheap free kicks through simulation. It wasn’t long that he realised his own fans were against him. Of course he still went down far too easily at some points but at least the fans tried their best to change his ways. Maybe it’s up to certain players own fans to make them aware of their unacceptable antics.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche believes diving will be eradicated in six months if the bans are introduced, but I really can’t see that happening. It’s like how the FA tried to cut out the verbal abuse referees receive from players, and look how that turned out. But what I can’t seem to get my head around is why haven’t the FA been giving retrospective bans in the first place. I thought retrospective bans were given when referees had missed something off the ball, or had got something wrong. Then they would look back at the incident and decisions were corrected. So players diving surely falls under that category. They’ve been doing it for off the ball incidents so why have they not tried to implement this sooner. At the end of the day diving is cheating. so why let it go on for so long?
I do believe players should be punished for diving and trying to influence the result through cheating, but unfortunately it won’t stop players attempting it. Without doubt, clubs would take 3 points over a two game ban all day long. Isn’t that the reason why top Premier League clubs have such big expensive squads?