After UEFA charged, and subsequently banned Arsenal’s Eduardo Da Silva for diving, or trying to deceive the referee, this week, simulation, or just plain cheating has been a hot topic. In my opinion, UEFA were wrong to act retrospectively, even though Eduardo clearly did take a dive. For me, retrospective punishment is a route that we should not go down.
We’re told constantly that “respect” for the referee is crucial in today’s football, but how can we respect the referee if we know there’s every chance that a higher power will retrospectively undermine and overrule him? Why should players keep their mouths shut about refereeing decisions, as they’re told to do if they know that if they make a scene about them there’s a chance they will be retrospectively overturned?
Where should we draw the line? UEFA have now set the precedent that any player who takes a dive in a Champions League game will receive a two match ban, but what about those penalty decisions that aren’t given, that intense video scrutiny shows should have been? We could quickly find ourselves in a wholly undesirable situation where players, managers and fans are clamouring for and expecting the results of matches to be changed, or the matches to be replayed, which is something that, except in the most extreme of circumstances, of which there are very few, we most certainly do not want.
UEFA’s decision also doesn’t make sense. Had the referee of the Arsenal match correctly seen Eduardo’s dive, and penalised him for it, under the laws of the game he would only have received a yellow card, but, because he got away with it, that yellow card, just one of three before a one match European suspension would kick in, has quickly become a two game ban. It’s hard to respect the officials and lawmakers with inconsistencies like that coming from them.
No, retrospective punishment for divers is not what I want to see, but neither is that yellow card. The majority of players who dive are strikers, who over the course of the season are unlikely to pick up the five, ten or even fifteen cautions needed to trigger a domestic ban and are very unlikely to commit two yellow card offences in a single match. In short, the yellow card is no deterrent.
If we are to stamp out widespread diving, there’s only one way to do it. Referees should give straight red cards to any player who takes a dive. The referees should not be scared of dishing out these punishments. They should be strong characters to do the job they do, while all but the most foolish players, in fear of receiving the red card and the three game ban that would near instantly follow would be too scared to cheat.
This should be applied at all levels of the game, and unlike using video evidence for retrospective punishment, it has the benefit that it doesn’t need an expensive hearing or a court of arbitration. All it would need is strong referees prepared to make an on the spot decision with the conviction to carry through the appropriate punishment, which in my book for cheating, the ultimate act of disrespect to the game, should be dismissal from it.
There would almost certainly be a flurry of initial sendings off, which some may see as farcical, but would be a necessary step to take, but if the officials and governing bodies stood firm, within weeks players would get the message, and we’d see a dramatic reduction in the amount of diving in our matches, from the Premier League to Under Eights’ Sunday Leagues. End of story. It’s just a shame it will probably never be allowed to happen.