Do Howard Webb’s words make things worse?

With the news that World Cup final referee Howard Webb has reportedly told Blackpool players to go to ground more easily in an attempt to help them win more free kicks and make life easier for referees, it had me wondering; is it right for referees to advocate what is tantamount to ‘simulation’?

Prior to the postponed match against Liverpool at Bloomfield Road Webb spoke to the Blackpool players, including defender Ian Evatt who commented on Webb’s talk;

‘He spoke to me about why I didn’t get a foul against Manchester City when Carlos Tevez caught me in the build-up to one of their goals. He said I was too honest and stayed on my feet. He said if I had gone down it would make the decision easier to give.

Evatt then went on to add;

‘I think that is where we are too naive. Most of us have come through the Championship – a more honest game, so to speak. In the Premier League, if you fall over you tend to get decisions. We are not talking about cheating, but sometimes we have to be less naive and go down under a challenge. We’re not going to make a meal of it, just show there’s a foul. It makes the ref’s decision easier.’

Going to ground easily is a part of the modern game, but I am not sure a referee should be advocating it to players. It is an unwritten law, and is, in my opinion, ok for players to admit they do it. However, it is not alright for those who adjudicate the game to champion it.

What’s more, the notion that players’ ‘go to ground’ easily because they are, in fact, trying to preserve the status quo and make life easier for referees is laughable. This is either self-delusion or utter rubbish, I am under no illusion that when a player ‘goes to ground easily’ or ‘dives’ they are not doing it for the benefit of officials, they are doing it to gain an advantage for their team, whether fairly or unfairly. Although this reportedly came from a referee, I am of the opinion that ‘going to ground easily’ makes life more difficult for officials rather than less. This is because this means the referees then have to make two decisions instead of one; first they must determine whether it is a foul, and second they must attempt to decipher whether the player is trying to deceive them.

I am all for making life easier for referees, I think they have a difficult job. But this should not be attained through a manipulation of existing rules.

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