Monday, September 14, 2009

Diving in the MLS

Ives Galarcep asks the question: Should MLS suspend players for diving? My short answer is absolutely and they should also consider a little financial pain as well. Here would be my punishment scale as well. This would be for a season and for a player.

First offense: suspended one match,* $500 fine**.
Second offense: suspended one match, $2500 fine.
Third offense: suspended two matches, $5000 fine or 5% of base salary, whichever is greater.
Fourth offense: suspended three matches, fine equivalent to 10% of base salary.
*This suspension would be over and above any yellow card suspension that could result for accumulated cards or if the diving yellow is the second yellow in a game (diving or simulation is a 100% misconduct, yellow card offense). So the punishment in that case is a two game suspension or what ever is listed.
**Fines should be matched by the club AND coach in order to put an end to this kind of behavior.
For teams that get multiple divers, they too need to be feeling the pocketbook pain, say $20,000+ for multiple offenders.

If I could, I would give a red card to players diving in the box to get a penalty, but since that is currently not the FIFA regulation, I can't do that.

When I referee, I usually give a specific instruction about dissent (another big pet peeve of mine), but usually only at premier level club soccer or high school games. I don't like back talk, but after my games this weekend (high school games), I have come to the conclusion that I might need to add a diving instruction in order to make clear that I won't tolerate that behavior.

Why do I feel this way? Diving is cheating and it should be punished as cheating. But it is not like another type of foul, which is technically cheating. But when it comes to an everyday type of foul, awarding possession to the other team and potentially a red or yellow card depending on the severity of the foul, is sanction enough.

But diving is another matter. Not only is it cheating and a foul, it is a direct attack on the authority and credibility of the refereeing crew. In this sense, diving is another form of dissent and disrespect. A player who dives, no matter how mild or how theatrical, is implicitly saying to the refereeing crew, "I don't think you are a good enough referee to catch me breaking the rules." But a diver shows his dissent and disrespect in an insidious manner, by trying to get his teammates, coaches and the fans on his side to force a referee into an incorrect action.

While I don't tolerate such language, if a player is calling me, the referee an "f---ing idiot" (or something similar) at levels where I and other players can hear it, it is at least a direct affront, a stupid one, but a direct one. I will still card a player for it, because it is a personal, public attack on the referee, but at least it is a direct attack on just the referee.

But diving is not just a matter of personal stupidity, it is cheap, cowardly and it demeans the referee and most importantly it demeans the game. It is this latter affront that bothers me most. I have a pretty thick skin and I know that players and coaches don't like every decision I make as a referee and I am comfortable with that. I am not, however, comfortable with with players of the game demeaning the game itself. I am particuarly displeased with professionals demeaning the game and their profession. Their actions have an impact beyond the immediate match on the pitch but also to their fans and the thousands of up and coming players. If a pro gets away with a dive, it is worse than some 15 year old high schooler.

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