The issue of cheating in football won’t go away. Is it a price worth paying for the cut and thrust of post-match debate? Colin Randall gets stuck in traffic long enough to hear a range of views …
If we are honest, most of us love the controversy that football provokes.
Not the kind of controversy caused by Celtic fans refusing to honour the dead – which could, incidentally, take up whole chapters of blog space – but the sort we seem to get every matchday when contentious decisions are made that affect results, league positions and sometimes the immediate future of clubs and managers.
Has David Ngog’s penalty made debate over the Darren Bent penalty redundant, as Pete Sixsmith has already suggested here? Does Salut! Sunderland need to give a new name to the “Eduardo question” we pose to opposing fans in the Who Are You? feature that precedes each SAFC game? Essentially, we ask whether fans would seize quite happily, or with deep shame, a penalty, victory and trophy (or avoidance of relegation) secured by a blatant act of cheating.
On TalkSport this morning, a Manchester United-supporting caller said football had become a game of “cheating played by footballers”. Alan Brazil joked that Ngog nearly “cleared the crossbar” with his dive to gain Liverpool a penalty and a point against Birmingham.
Someone else suggested giving an FA panel power to order a team to play its next game with 10 men if shown to have profited from flagrant dishonesty. Yet another, a Liverpool fan called, Damien, told the show hosted later by Mike Parry and Andy Townsend (I was a long time in traffic), it was what made football great. If the call went your team’s way, you were delighted; if it went against you, you were furious. But hey, it was what filled column inches and talk shows so a resounding No to retrospective sanctions.
What do Salut! Sunderland readers think? Is is realistic even to ask us to rise above partisan thoughts?
If there is still appetite for debate, I’ll kick off by saying I am completely against any change in the rules that would alter the result of a match already played, or indeed require an offending club to field a reduced side.
I am not even sure I agree with decisions being overturned while the game is still in progress, at least not until we have been convinced that the technology means it can be done in an instant.
The one exception I would make would be to allow referees to order a substitution or 15-minute exclusion, according to his own discretion but perhaps guided by the fourth or a fifth official, if any player rolls around in apparent agony. If, after all, the agony is genuine, the player needs treatment; if he is feigning injury, he deserves the shame and inactivity of being taken off.
But there is scope for retrospective punishment of the kind that might concentrate the minds of hypocritical managers who are all too often short-sighted about the sins of their own players (sins they may well have encouraged to be committed).
* appoint a panel and empower it to award yellow cards if satisfied on video evidence that players have cheated
* allow the panel to make yellow red if that original cheating led to an opponent’s dismissal
* grant the panel discretion to impose heavy fines against clubs and/or managers and offending players
As a postscript, I would also make it a yellow card offence for a player to badger the referee to caution or send off an opponent. I would trust the referee to distinguish between “come on, ref, you booked me for less” and the sort of snarling, screeching conduct we see in many Premier games.
I know what Damien meant by saying leave things as they are; his view is only a extension of the opening sentence of this item. But if we can devise powerful and effective measures to combat cheating, that is not going to rob us of the passion and polemic of lively post-match banter.