The Premier League seems incapable of enjoying a weekend garnished with tantalising football without being overshadowed by the dreaded ‘d’ word. There is no denying diving is rife, but whereas once upon a time it was an avant-garde manoeuvre, this season has highlighted its filtration into the mainstream. The problem has been long identified and yet the solution remains unclear. Is it time to mount a campaign to ensure guilty parties are retrospectively punished?
The painstakingly invasive coverage of the beautiful game means that every controversial incident falls under the glare of the media spotlight. With supporters refusing to accept its existence as part of the game’s modern make-up and managers becoming increasingly incensed that it’s starting to decide the final result, has there ever been a better time to combat the issue?
The threat of a yellow card simply isn’t the intimidating punishment required to deter the main offenders. At present the potential rewards on offer make the risk of ridicule worthwhile, especially when there will be an entirely new set of talking points dominating the headlines next week. Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez are two of the best players in the division but they risk permanently tainting their reputation by shamelessly plummeting to ground.
Referees have found themselves under surreal levels of pressure to try and eradicate the matter but this has served only to heap more mistakes on performances that were already riddled with errors. It seems the impossible job has somehow been made harder.
Mark Clattenburg’s handling of the Fernando Torres – Jonny Evans clash is the perfect example of how officials cannot be expected to make split second judgement calls with consistent accuracy. The ugly scenes that followed the incident were undoubtedly fuelled by his decision and should therefore act as an ideal milestone to bring about change.
Tony Pulis pledged his approval for retrospective action after watching his side suffer defeat at Carrow Road. The solitary goal that won the game for Norwich came from a free-kick that was awarded when Robert Snodgrass tumbled to the turf after pressure from Andy Wilkinson.
Stoke may be slightly hypocritical in their claims, considering the robust and aggressive nature to their playing style but if players can be reprimanded for violent conduct after the game, why can’t the same rules apply for diving?
“It should be football people – ex-players who know the game. You could have a panel of three and rotate every week. There are a lot of people out of work who can be called onto that panel.” (Telegraph)
On the surface it seems like a promising concept and one that could be implemented almost immediately. However, FIFA have been reluctant to endorse the scheme because it could snowball into the review of every single refereeing decision or even prompt more people to promote the use of video evidence during the game. Sepp Blatter has also echoed Roy Hodgson’s belief that it would be almost impossible to rely on the impartiality of others.
This is by no means a radical idea, the Italian Football Federation already have a similar system in place. In 2010 there was uproar when Juventus midfielder Milos Krasic found himself banned for two matches for a blatant dive but despite ferocious protest from the Old Lady, the suspension was served in full.
Last weekend Torino’s Alessio Cerci and Sampdoria’s Marcelo Estigarribia were both fined €2,000 for acts of simulation and while such a fine would hardly resonate on a footballer’s conscious, it does at least highlight consistency in the quest to remove play-acting from Serie A.
In my eyes, any proposed panel should only act on the painfully obvious cases, like Suarez’s frog splash against Stoke the other week. As Gary Neville expertly explained in the aftermath of the Ashley Young saga, it is impossible to condemn a player of diving when contact has clearly been made. Similarly there is a strong case for players going to ground in order to attract the referee’s attention towards any wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, despite a growing need to address the issue, we are more likely to have an extra official placed at either end of the pitch as a resolution. Sadly, as evident from Mario Balotelli’s wrestling match during the climax of Tuesday’s draw with Ajax, the wand wavering assistant does nothing to impact the game. And if they can’t see an unashamed offence when it’s right in front of them, what hope does a referee have?
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