It seems somewhat ironic that several days after wading into the ever-topical diving row himself, it was the man who has become the very epicenter of the debate, who took it upon himself to openly mock David Moyes.

Indeed, the timing of the Toffees’ manager’s remarks seemed somewhat conveniently times, before his side came up against the controversial figure of Luis Suarez. But wit provocative celebrations aside, there was something very poignant in what Moyes had to say last week.

Ahead of Everton’s meeting with Liverpool, Moyes called for strong refereeing, before a fixture that had produces an astonishing 20 red cards since 1999. But the comments that held slightly more gravitas in his interview with Mark Lawrenson, was his take on the wider effects of diving.

For Moyes, those indulging in simulation could provoke fans in turning their back on the beautiful game. He said:

“People are going to turn away if they continue to watch people throw themselves on the ground,” before bemoaning his side’s luck in the same fixture during the course of last season.

To some, that may not appear like a comment of any particular significance, but the gloomy sincerity in which one of the league’s most respected managers delivered such sentiments, felt like it spoke volumes. It’s important to not take comments like this quite so literally, but the notion that divers could in fact turn people away from grounds and away from football, seemed like an enormously bold statement.

Because of course, the cloud that diving has currently cast upon the Premier League, isn’t a pretty one by any means. Suarez may be public enemy number one in the simulation stakes, but we’ve seen a whole raft of unsavoury incidents that have left most of English football dismayed. The more worrying suggestion that referees are perhaps struggling to police a game without the hovering suspicions of past reputation, is certainly a depressing school of thought.

But as unethical and unsporting as diving may be, would it really turn fans away from football?

Although it feels impossible to open the debate upon diving without mentioning Suarez’s name, there feels like there has been a tendency to almost unnervingly focus the debate around the Liverpool forward, and that’s dangerous. It is easy to malign one player and cultivate something of a pantomime villain, but the dark arts of simulation have been nothing new.

We’ve seen in the past everyone from Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney to Gareth Bale and Ashley Young, trying their hands at a spot of footballing thespianism. This is not to make direct comparisons between the aforementioned players and Suarez, but the moral panic that is stemming around him is nothing new. Yet so many seem to be treating it that way.

So for Moyes to suggest that fans would turn their back on perhaps willing to shell out on a season ticket or something similar of the like because of diving, when they’ve already been exposed to it for years on end already, seems alarmist.

Furthermore, if you were to create a list of potential factors that might put off a football fan, you’d imagine diving would be pretty far down. How about the unrelenting ascent of ticket prices, the hideous over inflation of footballers wages in a dreadful economic climate or a certain subject of racism within the game? This isn’t to say that diving has any place in the game and that it hasn’t perhaps put people off already. But let’s get some perspective.

Again, when the media cling on to a figurehead in another of their moral crusades, it’s easy to forget the greater context of diving. Fans don’t want to see it within their own team and it’s not something anyone wants to associate with their club. But had Manchester United won the title last season, would celebrations have been muted as fans took the time to remember Ashley Young’s point winning tumbles against QPR and Aston Villa?

Likewise, many Spurs fans seemed quick to condemn Gareth Bale’s dive against Aston Villa at White Hart Lane this season. But such similar critique wasn’t quite so forthcoming when he wheeled the trick out last season to win a penalty against Arsenal. This isn’t a direct critique against either Spurs fans, United fans or any set of fans – indeed, you could pick a whole catalogue of incidents from almost all Premier League clubs last season.

But when the press cultivate a sinister villain in the guise of a Suarez, it’s easy to sweep the issues of our own clubs under the carpet. It’s more intrinsic nature, than calculated convenience. But diving has existed prominently in the past, without driving crowds away. Rightly or wrongly, it exists and no one wants to see it. Although Moyes is perhaps overzealous in his claims that it could have any form of palpable affect upon those who watch the game- either in grounds or in the armchair.

Fans endure issues of far more impending moral consequence than players throwing themselves onto the deck. It’s wrong, it’s not right and it has no place in the game. But if those watching football are happy to continue shelling out hundreds of pounds each year for television subscriptions and season tickets after far bigger and more pressing ignominies – which statistics suggest they are – than it’s hard to see how diving can have a seriously detrimental effect in turning fans away.

This is not in any way condoning the likes of Suarez et al and it’s not suggesting that some might be turned off by the playacting to a point they do finally turn their back on the game. Moyes is quite right in voicing his disdain for diving, But there is a distinct difference between condemning something and despising it to the point where it becomes intolerable.

For diving, it’s something that taints the beautiful game. But is it really enough to put us off it?

Would the prominence of diving be enough to make you turn your back on the beautiful game? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and get involved in the debate.

 

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  • Banksie
    2 years ago

    What is turning me off is the rubbish officials, in this weekends matches it was the referee’s who determined the result of 2 massive matches. What is the point of playing matches when the officials are more important to the result than the players or managers.

    Reply
  • darren
    2 years ago

    bad ref and linesman decisions are far more likly to turn people away moreso when the refs own body keep telling everbody to mind there own.where do we take this as a fan,i mean really is there enough of a connection for fans to do whats needed

    Reply
  • RoytheRed
    2 years ago

    I’ve been saying it for a few years now, refs are ruining our game, with poor decisions, o.k you expect mistakes, but all the while? I used to watch all the games that i could, now i only watch the Liverpool games, don’t give a monkeys about the rest anymore, not even the highlights. Would’nt be so bad if FA put results right after watching the games, but no, to much trouble changing results, but soon find time to ban players for missed incidents during matches, what’s the difference? Why can’t they reinstate a legit goal that was wrongly chalked off and chalk off goals with infringements, it would be fair, specially to the smaller clubs that don’t get the decisions against the so called big teams, they can’t afford to lose the millions bad calls can cost them. There rant over, YNWA.

    Reply
  • ken
    2 years ago

    you forgot to say about the dive yesterday that was yellow carded, every game this season we have had game changing decisions against us even in games we won its a joke sorry the europa games been ok we should bring in there refs

    Reply
  • Gothmog
    2 years ago

    I congratulate you on your views and having the balls to voice them unlike so many other journalists.

    I really enjoyed reading your article.

    Well done.

    Reply
  • EvertonAlways
    2 years ago

    i have been saying this for years about referees manipulating the outcome of games for their own agenda but what makes laugh is it only comes to the fore when it happens to a so called big team. When Clattenburg decide the outcome of Everton’s game against Liverpool a few years ago with his sending off of only Everton players and not giving Everton a “stonewall penalty” when Jamie “Jazz Hands” pulled Lescott down in the box, was he investigated no, was he outed in the media no,and i have just heard on Sky news that the linesman from the weekends Everton v Liverpool game will not be officiating this weekend, why, the official who allowed the offside Kone for Wigan against Everton did not get sanctioned he also was involved with the referee in denying Everton 2 blatant penalties. The Newcastle linesman who denied Everton 2 clear goals what happened to him nothing. The Pienaar sending at QPR was a joke has anything happen to that ref no. So it has me wondering why are the officials who made decisions against the Sky darling clubs getting hammered.

    Reply
  • amno1515
    2 years ago

    It’s the ref who are repelling the fans. We are thousands of pounds jokerso ers ruin games because they don’t want to use technology.these joker will be remembered for their imcompetencies.

    Reply
  • lionel
    2 years ago

    its true, its gonna be bad refereeing that will turn fans away. Why the La Liga, German, Italian. French and Dutch leagues plus the south american leagues, have better standards of referring than the EPL.And with such channels being available for most of the people around the world to turn to, the English FA and the EPL referees will surely cause more of us to turn to these leagues for our soccer entertainment. Moroever referees decisions seem to favour just one particular team this year – it seems like the English FA and the referees Association are bent on, by hook or crook to ensure that this particular team claim the EPL this year!
    Shame on you English FA and the referees of the EPL!

    Reply