Football needs retrospective action to stop cheats
By Tom Gaunt
For some time we have been debating how to deter cheats in football. In recent times cheating has become more prevalent and cheats are getting better at it. Two decades ago when the Premier League started it was a rarity to see a player dive, even leading to players like Jurgen Klinsmann standing out as a “Diver”, he was the exception not the rule. Fast forward 15 years and now there is barely a player in the top division who has not only dived but has also perfected the art. The rise to prominence of an apparent new rule stating that any contact made in a tackle is a penalty has not helped the cause. We now see players actually kicking an opponents leg and then buckling under the impact, which in my eyes should be a free kick the other way, but to referees and pundits alike this is a clear penalty because there was “contact”. However cheating is not the problem I will be discussing today (for that you can read The Beautiful Shame). I want to look at potential solutions to what I believe is a virus spreading throughout the game and spiraling out of control.
An in-depth analysis of refereeing trends or a comparison of various cheats around the world and how various punishments have effected them is not necessary. I believe the solution is very simple and is not original in the slightest, but nonetheless a solution which is readily available. Retrospective action. For a few years now video evidence has been used in order to punish bad challenges or off the ball incidences not spotted by the referee. What I cannot understand is why it has to be an event not spotted by the referee. In essence one could walk over to a player punch him in the face but as long as the Referee gives you a yellow card that is the end of it. Last weekend Ashley Cole caught Javier Hernandez with a reckless late challenge which could have broken his leg. The referee chose to give him a yellow card, and at full speed the challenge just looked clumsy. On reflection it was, as Alex Ferguson put it, a ‘shocking’ challenge, but the referee did not have the benefit of video replay to help him. In Referee 2.0 I discuss the use of video technology during games and the slowing of the game being an argument against, but for retrospective action you do not need to slow the game or get everything 100% right during the game. You are just making sure you at least punish the right people afterwards.
Getting back to cheating I have a few ideas. The first action would, in my opinion, get rid of 90% of diving or ‘simulation’ as it is now, for no apparent reason, called. The solution is to give any player caught diving, retrospectively, a 5 match ban. This of course is very harsh, but that is not without reason. Diving is something which is premeditated. A player, when diving is fully aware of what they are doing. Unlike a late challenge or an instinctive handball, actions which a player’s body may do through reflex or lack of timing, when a player dives they are making a conscious decision to do so. The mind decides on the dive before the body. Because of this heavy bans will stop players from diving, in the long run. Sure there will still be players who will take a dive in the last minute of a Cup final or title decider knowing a 5 match ban is on its way, but are happy to take the risk.
Moving on from diving the next area of contention is red cards. I think I am correct in saying that to date in the Premier League not one red card has ever been rescinded, or if it has then the number is less than five. Compare that to the number of players who have been wrongly sent off. The FA seems to be fixated on not wanting to undermine referees by showing them to be wrong after a match, but quite simply retrospective action will make their jobs a lot easier. The most recent example which springs to mind is the sending off of Alex in the League Cup last night. He got the ball cleanly and therefore a foul should not have even been given. The referee did not have the best view and we can excuse him this small error, but why should Alex and Chelsea now suffer. The mistake should be admitted and the ban lifted and everyone can move on.
The same goes for feigning injury. We can all remember Sergio Busquets sneaky peak after getting Motta sent off. That was on one of the biggest stages in football and seen by millions. UEFA had the perfect opportunity to make an example of Busquets and single him out as a cheat, but they decided not to. Whether it was because they did not want to tarnish beautiful Barcelona’s reputation or thought that he had not done anything wrong we will never know, but increasingly the authorities are turning a blind eye to cheating. Part of the issue seems to be that you cannot prove if someone is hurt, and I do understand this. We have all seen the Sergio Busquets incident and it is clear cut, but what about someone that was until recently considered an honest player. Below is footage of Thierry clutching his face after a clash with Carlos Puyol in 2006. He is clearly cheating and should have faced a ban, but after the game he still claimed his innocence. I think that UEFA and other governing bodies have to also accept that players will lie after the event too and will stop at nothing to gain an advantage, so any pleads of innocence should be taken with a pinch of salt.
UEFA almost made a breakthrough in 2009 when it retrospectively banned Eduardo for diving in order to win a penalty. Unfortnately they rescinded the ban based on the fact that there was ‘contact’. As I have mentioned earlier, contact does not render the challenge a penalty. The fact of the matter is that Eduardo simulated being fouled by the Goal Keeper in order to win the penalty. That could have been a turning point for Football, but instead they did a u-turn choosing to support the cheats instead. Everytime I see a dive or a feigned injury it saddens me, but what is even sadder is that people just brush it off as ‘part of the game’. We shouldn’t take cheating so lightly and neither should Football Associations.
I will eave you with a video of a man taking cheating to the next level. He actually hits himself with his opponents hand!
Posted on September 22, 2011, in *Tom Gaunt, FA, Opinion, Referees, UEFA and tagged Alex Ferguson, Ashley Cole, Association football, Barcelona, Diving, Javier Hernandez, Penalty card, Phil Dowd, Premier League, Sergio Busquets, Soccer, UEFA. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.