I got a phone call the other day and as soon as I realised it was a genuine offer to join the new FA panel adjudicating on simulation I was overjoyed at the idea, happy to respond and honoured to be a part of the process.
After all, it means somebody, somewhere feels that the way I played the game, added to the way I talk about the game as a pundit, have shown a reasonable level of honesty and integrity.
So that meant it was an easy yes, but of course, in an ideal world that email from the FA containing evidence will never drop into the in-box, and the cheats will all pack it in overnight. I haven’t even asked after the remuneration involved by the way, and that’s the truth!
One of the aspects I’m most on-board with is that players will be deterred, knowing that even though they might appear to have got away with cheating everyone, there is still every chance of it catching up with them.
I also feel it’s the perfect opportunity to practise what I preach. Instead of being restricted to criticising those whose job it is to police these situations, here I am being able to literally do it myself, no longer able to duck the responsibility while I am given all the facts of the matter with which to make a judgement.
The five former officials who have also accepted the invitation are Keren Barratt, Steve Dunn, Mike Mullarkey, Alan Wiley and Eddie Wolstenholme, while the ex-pros joining myself in the pool of 13 are Lee Dixon, Trevor Sinclair, Terry Butcher, Chris Powell, Nigel Adkins, Rachel Brown-Finnis and Alex McLeish.
We all have areas where, as the wording goes, we might bring the perception of a conflict of interest with us, and I think it’s a good idea that we are named and accountable for those cases we don’t feel should lead to retrospective punishment.
There will be less of these convictions than you think, by the way. I was shown the numbers from last season and I feel we make such a massive deal of what are relatively rare cases that we are in danger of losing sight of of the majority of top professionals who resolutely, simply don’t do it.
While I don’t think we are likely to come across too many instances that are less than clear-cut, and remember they will be restricted to major incidents such as pens and red cards, it is only fair for me to be kept out of the loop when LFC’s fortunes are at stake, for example.
You don’t want club execs with a list of even more grievances, so let’s keep the inevitable push-back to a minimum!
I’m glad the FA are all for keeping it as simple as possible, so that we do not get bogged down with every coming together all over the pitch every weekend. The punters as well as the players can’t really ask for more than that, so I think this is a definite step in the right direction that should take some of the burden off match-day refs and make their job even the slightest bit easier.
I find that most managers don’t want the ritual headache of defending this kind of behaviour in post-match press conferences or through the week anyway, as it reflects so badly on themselves and is often the cause of major distraction from what he wants his club to focus on.
On the whole, then, it’s a very positive step and to me it’s a win-win that might just lead to a reduction in grown men trying to con their way through our beautiful game.