The downfall of Lance Armstrong has set people thinking and talking about sporting cheats. Salut! Sunderland has banged on about it for years, earning the admiration of some readers but irritating others. Trying to con the referee is admittedly on a different scale to the systematic use of performance-enhancing drugs*, but it is a scourge of modern football all the same. For a partisan site to campaign on such issues and keep a straight face, it has to be willing to recognise the blatant Gyan (often), Bent (sometimes) or Larsson (at Wolves) dive just as clearly as it sees it in opponents, and we have tried to be consistent. Our friend out west, Robert Simmons, believes football could learn a useful lesson from his side of the pond …
There are a lot of frustrating things about being a fan of world football who lives in America.
Most of my friends get irritated when I start talking about Sunderland’s position in the league table, even more annoyed when I try to argue that the Wear-Tyne derby is more of a rivalry than any in sports here in America.
People don’t understand why I don’t just watch the MLS and forget about my love for football across the pond. They just don’t understand the difference in quality of play, the passion of the fan bases, and the highs and lows of sticking by your team through an entire 38-match season.
However, there is one place where I agree with my friends and their stance against world football, and that is the prevalence of diving in the modern game.
It seems the most difficult thing about playing against Luis Suarez these days is that if you get too close he’s likely to go down like a heap of potatoes and leave you standing there looking like you’ve mauled him.
In fairness, it seems like he’s earned himself a reputation and isn’t getting many calls, but that doesn’t make his diving less of a disgrace. To make sure it doesn’t look like I’m picking on the South American players, Gareth Bale seems shy to take a hit, but certainly not too shy to go down if someone breathes on him too hard.
The modern game is so fast and so physical that it is difficult and almost unreasonable to expect that even the best of referees is going to make the correct call each time. If we can’t expect the ref to get it right, then we should punish players guilty of diving.
Take a look at what the MLS has done here in America and implant it in England. There is now a committee that reviews matches and can retroactively fine players who are guilty of diving.
The best part of all of this is that the league is taking their position on diving seriously. There have been a number of instances in the past two seasons where players have received fines for taking a dive during their previous game.
Here is what I propose: after each match, if a player is guilty of a dive that player is given a fine. A second offense in that same season warrants a bigger fine. A third offense has a bigger fine and a two-match ban.
I don’t think this will solve the problem, but I do think it will go a long way to encourage players to work harder to stay on their feet instead of falling to the ground so easily.
I also feel like I need to say that there is a difference between “diving” and “going down too easily”. If contact is made it may not be a dive, but going down too easily is equally as difficult for a ref to determine whether the contact warranted a foul. So I’m not sure if the fines and suspensions should go for players who fall, as it were, into this category and would be happy to let my proposed disciplinary committee make that tough decision.
Creating such a committee in the first place would send out the clearest message that a determined effort was being made to rid the beautiful game of the stain of diving.
* Soon after this was posted, a tweet alerted Monsieur Salut to an article from a (French language) Belgian site about allegations in Spain from Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor at the centre of sport and doping allegations that if he revealed all he knew, Spain would be stripped of the 2010 World Cup trophy. The claims have been roundly denied.