After what sounds like an absolutely epic appeal by Arsenal worthy of a Hague courtroom, UEFA has overturned Eduardo’s two-match ban for diving. How you feel about the decision likely has a lot to do with your thoughts on whether such punishments are truly effective deterrents to such nefarious acts. UEFA’s decision may also be seen as a victory of sorts for those against the increasing use of video replay to correct decisions made in the heat of the moment on the pitch.
Short of radical changes such as of the use of a hockey-style “sin-bin,” or the use of in-game video replay, it seems doubtful that diving can be removed from the game by any meaningful degree. Under the current rules, do we really think that the vague threat of a possible future match ban affects the in-game thinking of a player? Or that the risk of a yellow deters players when the reward could be a penalty or a free kick from a juicy angle?
More importantly, is diving a truly serious threat to the game or do such acts occur so infrequently as to not require change or increased enforcement? My uneducated guess, backed up by absolutely no empirical data, is that dives are rare. It is only because making the call is so subjective that the issue creates such controversy. Those who play the sport know full well that sometimes the slightest challenge, or hint of a challenge, made while you’re bursting at full speed, particularly if you’re knackered, can cause a tumble to the unforgiving earth. Sometimes all it takes is a moment’s loss of concentration to tangle up the toes.
For such reasons, I don’t think radical rule changes or heavy-handed punishments hung on hindsight are required. However, I am in that group of people who thinks that the addition of an additional assistant referee behind each goal will go a long way to make sure that any and all infractions in the penalty area are correctly called. Besides, everybody knows that Eduardo was struck by an invisible bullet fired by an invisible sniper lodged in high in the nether regions of the Emirates.