There is No Moral High Ground in the Fight Against Theatrical Diving In Soccer

After reading some online reviews of the new FIFA 13 game, there were some comments on the articles that struck really struck me. Whilst the majority of them were overwhelmingly positive, there were some voicing their disappointment that the creators had yet to include one particular feature. The option to ‘take a dive’ is one thing that punters would love to see as part of a football simulation game…apparently!

This, coupled with the past weekends events, really got me thinking about simulation. It has often been accepted that ‘simulation’ or ‘diving’ is rife in a vast majority of the European leagues, but is it now part of the fabric of the Premier League too?

In the wake of the recent controversies, it would be difficult to argue against such a sentiment, with Sunday’s events merely proving to be resounding reinforcement. A league that once prided itself on the honesty and integrity of its stars is now tainted with a host of players who look to con the officials and gain an unfair advantage. That, as exasperating as it may be, is an undeniable truth and unfortunately it doesn’t seem the issue is going away any time soon.

Foreign imports have often been blamed for this influx in players going down easily. Sir Alex Ferguson most recently claimed it was the fault of European and South American players, a point which I would wholeheartedly disagree with. British players are just as common perpetrators as overseas players, with the majority of Premier League footballers being caught up in the most recent diving scandals are British natives. Some involving Gareth Bale, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck immediately spring to mind.

Nonetheless, whether the culprits are British or not, it is a part of the game that infuriates the majority associated with the sport. Stoke manager Tony Pulis has been calling for Luis Suarez to be banned following the part he played in the weekend’s debacle, such is his anger over it. Supporters have vented their frustration on phone-ins and online in order to try and defend their respective players, convinced that players at their own club would never partake in such petulant behaviours.

The truth is however, that simulation is so rife within the modern English game, that it happens at EVERY club. As lovers of the game, regardless of our allegiances, it is time to accept this. Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale have been castigated for their antics, but they are not alone. Being in a privileged position to have a season ticket for a Premier League team, I cannot remember the last time I came away from the ground without seeing a player from my own side or the opposition having attempted to simulate. It happens in every side, under the rule of every manager in the country.

Managers like Pulis who bemoan simulation should quite frankly take a look at their own players before tarring others. On the final day of last season I recall Peter Crouch taking a tumble to win a penalty, one which ultimately resulted in the relegation of Bolton Wanderers. How do you imagine Bolton fans felt (and probably still do feel) about that!?

Before anything can be done to try and eradicate diving, it is time for supporters and managers alike to stop taking the perceived moral high ground in a desperate attempt at petty point scoring against their rivals.

I fear that the issue is beyond fixing however. Its now a massive part of the game and a major overhaul would be required in order to make any significant changes to the attitude of those players who indulge in an occasional tumble. It would be implausible for the FA to implicate a structure by which sanctions are administered to those found guilty of simulation. Simulation is still punishable as a yellow card offence across the game. This could not be changed without the backing of other European leagues and more importantly FIFA, whom none of which are so fervently against diving as those who associated with the English game.

An independent panel set up to retrospectively punish those caught in the act is an attractive idea, but one that might be difficult to implicate and unfeasible. Even now there are disagreements over the isolated incidents from the weekend, and to label a player as a cheat based on this is a pretty strong accusation to make. One which could in turn lead to further controversies.

What do you think can be done to stop players diving? Is it beyond reprieve? Have you ever felt ashamed of a player from your club who has dived in a match?

Follow me on Twitter: @13mattj13

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