Monday, August 31, 2009

The Diving Controversy--A Referees Take

Every sport, no matter what it may be, has its downsides, things that are against the rules, but get exploited improperly and sometimes don't get punished as much as it should. In football, the biggest offender is diving. In professional terms, the act is reported as "simulation," that is the simulating of a foul having been committed. For me there are two cardinal sins in football, dissent and diving. This post is not about dissent, but I have a good rant on that to be posted at some point.

But diving is worse that dissent because while dissent is usually only heard by the referee and a few players, diving combines both a disrespect for the referee and a disrespect for the game. Personally, as a referee I would love to be able to show up to a game with this shirt on, but that is not professional either.

Diving or simulation attempts to make a fool of the referee and tries to pull a fast one over on the referee. Occaisionally it works, and players can get an opponent cautioned or even sent off. See, this recent incident invovling Arsenel and Celtic in a UEFA Champion's League Qualifier. (Ignore the commentary, the video clearly shows no foul). This weekend, ironically, Celtics Aiden McGeady took a dive against Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League which earned him his second yellow card and a sending off.

There are some football fans and supporters who say that diving and showmanship is a part of the game, that if the player can get away with it, they will do so and that is fair. But here's the thing, when an oppoenent takes a dive against their team, they will always cry foul, thus proving themselves to be hypocrits.

From a referee's perspective, however, simulation (and its slightly less offensive cousin embellishment) is simply offensive. Truth be told, if I could hand out red cards for simulation, I would, but the Laws of the game don't allow me to do so. It is cheating. Full stop. If a player fouls you and you can gain an advantage by keeping going, you should be able to do so as that is punishment on the fouling team. But if the other players doesn't foul you, or worse, doesn't even touch you, and you go down like you have just been shot, you are cheating the other team and possibly costing the game. Eduardo, McGeady, and every other player who has taken a dive in a game are cheats. Maybe not cheats all the time, but at that time they were and that cheapens the game.

More importantly, you are cheating the game. The game is bigger than any one player, any one team and certainly any one referee. Diving creates the illusion of foul play by partaking in unsporting conduct.

So what should the governing bodies do. Reports are that UEFA is considering a two match ban of Eduardo which would mean he sits for the first two group stage matches for Arsenel. I haven't heard what, if anything the SPL will do to McGeady.

I don't have a problem with a retroactive fine for Eduardo, but I don't think he should be given a post match red card as if the Referee saw it. The referee didn't see and thus giving a ban for any game would be wrong. I also don't want to see govenring bodies reviewing and overturning match decisions by the referee because then the referees start to wonder "If I make this call, will it get overturned" and the one thing on the referee's side is that usually his/her decisions on the pitch are final. That cannot be allowed to happen, players, managers, team officials cannot, with the aid of technology after the fact, go back and scream about it and get some sort of ban.

But Eduardo was wrong and he should not get off without punishement either. That is why I favor a financial penalty and a financial penalty against Arsenel the team. Eduardo's game day salary, doubled should work. I don't know what his salary is, but assuming he is making fifty grand a week, divided by seven, you have 7,100 and doubled is 14,000 pounds or so--a fair penalty I think. Had the penalty turned out be to be the goal that got Arsenel through to the next round, the fine would have to be much higher.

Football has enough drama in and of itself. There is no need to embellish it with kabuki theatrics meant to deceive.

Divers really are wankers.

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