Author: Andy Townsend
Once again, the subject of diving has become one of the game’s hottest topics and this time it coincides with something I feel could surely help sort it for good.
I believe there is a real opportunity and I hereby challenge Mike Riley and his PGMO team to manage upwards if you like, by reaching out to FIFA and requesting an addition to the four areas of VAR jurisdiction we already know about. I honestly could not see such an approach getting knocked back.
I understand the proposed areas to be these:
* Red Cards
* Mistaken Identity
So what I propose is wording a fifth area along the lines of *Simulation, where a player is proven, upon scrutiny, to be seeking to gain advantage by falling, without contact, then the punishment is red, not yellow.
With a sanction as harsh as red, people would rightly say, where do you draw the line. My answer? I draw the line between the two penalty boxes! Neither would I advocate dismissal for that grey area where contact has been made and then exaggerated. If simulation can be proved, a yellow is still fine for those.
It’s all about evening things up for me. Compare the gain with the consequence here and you will see the gap we have to narrow if we are finally going to get serious about eradicating this form of cheating from our game.
Part of the problem is that those who are good at it get away with it and those that are bad can look forward to a yellow, nothing more. Believe me, as a player the only time you are remotely deterred by a yellow is when it might bring a suspension following a totting up process, and even then only if it threatens your taking part in a game as big as a semi or a final. Players just don’t care about yellow cards, simple as that, they do nothing to harm their reputation, which means we are never going to get anywhere until we get the punishment to fit the crime.
The most recent examples involved Sane, Rashford, Kane and Lucas. Let’s go through those and throw Kane out as an example of diving for starters. It was poor from start to finish as far as the Arsenal defenders were concerned and I saw no issue whatsoever with the decision of Michael Oliver to award Spurs a spot kick.
Where I feel the player took the most advantage was where Neil Swarbrick was deceived by the crumpling Marcus Rashford at Old Trafford and Leroy Sane tumbled over at Middlesbrough, Now, were these really red card offences? Well for me they were, actually… all day long.
At Watford, meanwhile, Liverpool’s Lucas just embarrassed himself with his attempt, and that brings me to a concern which I feel makes resolving this all the more urgent.
Our national game as a whole is being embarrassed, and on a regular basis at that. Don’t get me wrong, diving has been with us for decades, and sometimes, the way people talk, you would think it was something new. What has changed is the round-the-clock coverage and the amount of angles we get to view these challenges, as well as errors, which ensures that incidents linger where they would once have soon slipped from our memory.
I’m not so concerned about midfield skirmishes, what we need to tackle most is the risk of a player who has won a pen and escaped punishment staying on the pitch to score a last-minute winner, and that is currently a risk we run right up to the very highest level, at least until the next World Cup.
In the old days, managers might have pressurised their men to go down, and what we want is pressure on the player to stay on his feet, no matter what pundits like Ruud Gullitt might advise!
If I’m honest I’ve even had refs admit to me that if a player does not go down it makes it harder for him to award a penalty… which only underlines my point that this is a chance we must grab to expose those who go down falsely and remove them from the field of play.
Where do the managers come in then? My very first solution, in an ideal world, would have them withdrawing any player guilty of diving but that is never going to happen, is it.
They will ultimately have to change their mindset too, however, and be held responsible for having signed and picked the guilty party in the first place. I can see the day when player contracts include financial sanctions when cheating has been proven, and this will shame their managers too, you’d like to think.
It all means changing the way people think and the way the game is played, while making the most of the technology, and I’m not pretending it won’t take a good couple of years for administering a red to have the desired effect. That said, there could not be a better time to let players know this is coming, so come on Mike, get your best pen out and start writing to Mr Infantino!