By Alan Biggs
The Football Association’s attempt to deter divers appears to have fallen under its first challenge. And there was very little reason for it to “go down,” according to You Are The Ref experts.
That is the irony of the fact that Watford’s Richarlison has been cleared by a first sitting of the diving panel set up for this season.
But that has not surprised Keith Hackett who predicted that the three men panel – made up of a former referee, a player and a manager – would not grasp the nettle. Richarlison tumbled after a challenge from Hector Bellerin during Watford’s surprise 2-1 win over Arsenal. The penalty awarded by referee Neil Swarbrick was crucial to the result.
Although there was slight contact, replays clearly suggest it was insufficient for the Brazilian forward to fall and that he had cleverly induced it.
Hackett said: “Sadly for the game, I could foresee this outcome. All three panel members have to agree. In my opinion it has damaged this initiative that they have failed to come to the right conclusion. I cannot imagine the FA will be happy. Or any neutral football fan for that matter. I wonder if the panel were aware that contact is not the determining factor on whether a player is seeking to gain an unfair advantage. For instance, these are the guidelines issued to referees recently by the Asian Football Confederation;-
Is there contact between the players involved?
Does the attacker use the slight contact to deceive the referee?
Has the attacker initiated the contact between the opponent and themselves?
Is there fair/normal contact between the players, resulting in no offence being committed? Has the attacker anticipated the contact between the opponent and themselves?
Does the attacker initiate the contact?
Has the player over-exaggerated the seriousness of the foul committed?
Does the player simulate a foul to win a free kick?
Does the player attempt to deceive the referee?
“On that basis I don’t think there is any doubt that the Watford player should now be starting a two-match suspension.
“The game would be in a better place if that was the case.”
Hackett fears the verdict will encourage players to deceive referees, with the blessing of some managers.
He added: “The whole situation creates confusion for referees and effectively gives the game’s blessing to attackers to contrive contact to dupe officials into awarding penalties.”