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It’s Time To Accept Simulation As An Undesirable Yet Unpreventable Part Of Soccer

Despite the clamour to hang, draw and quarter those players who like to take a tumble at the slightest touch, you must have a certain degree of, well, maybe not sympathy, but understanding as to why they fall to the ground after a tackle.

Earlier in the season in a game poised at 0-0 against Tottenham, Everton’s Seamus Coleman was clipped in the box. He stumbled, fell to his knees, immediately jumped up and skewed a shot wide. It was a foul, and a penalty should have been awarded by the referee. It surely would have been if the Irishman had stayed down.

A couple of months later on New Year’s Day, when the Toffees were away at Stoke City, Leon Osman had his legs swiped in the box. The England man stuttered, but stayed on his feet. Again, if he’d gone down and stayed down a penalty would have been given. Nothing was awarded initially, but luckily for Everton, Jermaine Pennant hacked him down about three seconds later and a penalty was then awarded.

It seems referees are only looking to give these big decisions if the recipient of the tackle is felled quite literally to the ground. The two aforementioned players are honest professionals, but it has been to their detriment in these instances. If you were their manager, what would you be telling them to do next time they feel contact in the box? As a supporter, I’d certainly want them to go down and earn the points for the team.

And herein lies the crux of this whole diving issue. Would that then constitute diving? In the eyes of some, perhaps. The hindered player would be much more likely to get a penalty if he accentuated the contact and this only further clouds the boundaries that distinguish ‘winning’ a penalty and an outright dive. Boundaries that are already pretty blurred as it is.

With that in mind, maybe simulation is a part of the game that we just have to accept? Feigning injury is obviously something that needs to be eradicated and another matter entirely. But realistically, are we going to ever abolish simulation?

Even though there has been outcry from various corners of the media, some supporters are starting to develop a laissez-faire attitude to simulation. If their team gets a penalty with one of their players taking a tumble, do you think they’ll be bemoaning their player’s dishonesty and conning of the officials? Not a chance. Especially when other players are likely to do exactly the same against them given the chance.

Some have called for harsher punishments and a retrospective panel to potentially discourage players from indulging in it. But to label someone essentially as a cheat is a big, bold move to take and going down that road would give rise to a host of issues. Ones you imagine FIFA, the FA and any other governing body are pretty keen to avoid.

Remember in 2009 when UEFA tried to ban Eduardo for diving against Celtic? UEFA quickly recoiled into their shell and rescinded it under massive protestations from Arsenal.

In the wake of the ban initially being administered, Arsene Wenger had this to say (via BBC Sport):

“It singles out a player to be a cheat and that is not acceptable. We will not accept the way Uefa has treated this.

“I believe you can debate whether it is a penalty or not. But this charge implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee.

Most of these decisions are still contested by managers and players, not to mention pundits and supporters, after copious amounts of replays. How can anyone say with certainty that a player has taken a dive?

Branding someone a diver could have a major effect on their career, too. Think back to 2006 when Jose Mourinho harshly claimed Andy Johnson was a diver. Following those accusations, the then-Everton man was promptly battered by central defenders up and down the country, and some of the penalty decisions waved away were downright startling.

The same applies to Luis Suarez, who went weeks without getting a penalty – despite some blatantly obvious fouls on him being turned away – after David Moyes accused him of being a diver before last season’s Merseyside derby.

In truth, a yellow card seems like a suitable punishment anyway. Calls for a three game ban for diving – the same as you’d get for violent conduct or a reckless challenge – seem a little extreme.

For me, diving falls into the same category as other instances of gamesmanship that have become part and parcel of the game. If a central defender gives a striker a nudge in the back when defending a cross, almost by reflex you’ll hear the commentators wax lyrical about “shrewd play” or “experienced defending”. In reality, it should be a foul against the defender, but it’s a piece of deceitful play that has become integrated and in many cases lauded.

Then there’s the classic cynical foul; when a player drags an opponent back or intentionally chops him down when bursting through midfield and towards the back four. “A good foul to give away” we’ll often hear, but is that any less grating than a player going down easily? Is that not cheating or is it just “part of the game”? It’s certainly cheating viewers out of a fluid, end-to-end contest.

These are just two of a plethora of facets within the game have become accepted despite their illegality. Unless the something drastic is done to stem the flow of players going to ground easily, simulation will too. It’s inevitable.

For a culmination of the aforementioned reasons, no plan will be put in place. Governing bodies will keep a safe distance from labeling players as cheaters. Managers might put on a front against the issue, but internally they know that they’d be at a major disadvantage if their players are too honest. In the increasingly harsh landscape of Premier League management, you can’t afford to give an inch to your competitors.

It’s a shame, of course. In an ideal world players would do all they can to stay upright. But those who maintain those seemingly old-school values are starting to be hampered. And these kinds of characters seem to be increasingly on the wane in the modern game.

What’s your view? Leave a message in the comments section or follow me on Twitter @MattJFootball

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  1. goisles01

    January 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Matt, you hit this dead on and its what ive been saying all along. Embellishment is part of all sport. for example…

    In the NBA its called flopping. little contact that sends a player sliding across the floor to draw offensive fouls. Officials still dont know what to do with enforcing this.

    In the NFL defensive players will actually turn their back to blocks then fall over to draw holding penalties

    In MLB players wear armor on their arm then turn into pitches to be intentionally hit by a pitch to get on base.

    In the NHL diving is still prevalent. Whats not right though is, to absolve the ref of any decision making, penalties are called on the infraction and the dive at the same time. Is it an actual infraction or a dive? it cant be both.

    How about something really outrageous. Take a page out of the NHL book. Give the penalty then red card the diver. That should stop it.

    Faking injuries is another story.

    • Flyvanescence

      January 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      As far as hockey goes, it can be both a foul and a dive. Penalties are given for specific offences such as slashing, hooking, illegal checks etc.
      Not all of these offences cause the victim to fall down all the time. Therefore the penalty is given for the specific offence that DID OCCUR, and also a penalty is given for the dive which embellished the effect of the foul.

      • goisles01

        January 9, 2014 at 5:37 pm

        The initial offense should always take precedence. The result of that offense should not matter whether the player stays on his feet or not as long as the official deems a foul was made. The embellishing just calls the foul to the officials attention so they can get the call or else their effort to get in a position to be fouled would go out the window because the defense, in all contact sports, could literally be called for fouls on every play the way rules are today but are not. When the officials decide to let a physical game play out it will always be to the detriment of the offense which would be allowed to be manhandled.

  2. goatslookshifty

    January 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Watch a English football match from the 70’s-90’s and half the tackles back then would be straight reds now. How did this change become? The influx of foreign players in the league who were easily fouled and embellished caused refs to blow the whistle. The days of scrappy British players who could take a kicking became outnumbered by finesse foreign players who didn’t like the physical aspect of English play.
    I hate to admit it but diving is part of the game now and will be difficult to eradicate. Two or more yellows for diving should be a three match ban.

    • goisles01

      January 9, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Same could be said for the NHL. I look back on old Canadiens and Islanders games and their great defensive play are now penalties today. In the NFL defensive players are in the Hall of Fame for defensive play that would get them suspended long term today

  3. Smokey Bacon

    January 9, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Hanging is too good for them.

    Retroactive punishment will have to do.

    • IanCransonsKnees

      January 9, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Amen Smokey something we agree on. If you allow one form of cheating why not allow all forms, spot fixing, match fixing?

      The fact they’re appealing for decisions they know they don’t deserve disrespects their fellow professionals they’re playing against and the fans paying to watch them.

      Against Everton Marriner gave them decisions we had no chance of getting, because they were so eager to go to ground and did it so well.

      We may as well start awarding points for the most theatrical dives if we’re expected to accept cheating as the norm.

      • Tony Butterworth

        January 9, 2014 at 5:18 pm

        But you simply cannot tell a dive from a slow motion replay. So many things look like dives but you can fall from just losing balance in a high speed movement.

        • IanCransonsKnees

          January 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm

          There’s a difference between falling at pace and getting up and getting on with it and deliberately conning the ref by rolling around like you’ve been electrocuted.

  4. Tony Butterworth

    January 9, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    This debate drives me nuts. Even Le Saux, who I like, said the other day “if it’s not a penalty then it’s a yellow card for simulation” There is middle ground, and it’s the majority. IF you run full speed with a ball and get challenged then you fall over. Doesn’t mean penalty or dive. Aaaaagh

    • Flyvanescence

      January 9, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Thank you. I never got that argument either.

  5. Jim

    January 9, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Unless there’s instant replay in soccer issues like diving won’t be eliminated because in most cases the referee or his assistants are not near enough to clearly see the play. Since referees have to make a decision so quickly there will always be decisions that are wrong.

    When a player is fouled near or in the box and plays on only to miss the target then it encourages players to stay down the next time he is fouled. The rule should be changed so that if the player misses he should be awarded a free kick or penalty. Bring it back just like when an initial advantage doesn’t pan out and the play is called back.

  6. Dean Stell

    January 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Agreed…..I blame the referees. They’ve created this standard where a foul cannot be called if the player stays on his feet. Therefore, we see world class athletes flinging themselves to the ground in hopes that the foul is called. It’s the same thing as feeding your dog from the dinner table and then being upset that your dog begs for food: You trained the dog to do that.

    The thing is that I’m not unsympathetic to the fouled player. Soccer is really a sport about defense. It is so much easier to destroy an offensive movement than to create something. You don’t have to knock an offensive player down to ruin an offensive movement, just jostle him enough to delay a pass for a split second, disrupt his balance, make him take an extra touch….

    Refs need to have a definition of what constitutes a foul and call it whether the offensive player is knocked down or not.

    If that happens, they players don’t have to fall down all the time and they certainly don’t have to act like they’re injured when they are not.

  7. nicko

    January 9, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    In basketball it’s a “flop” and it’s all good.

  8. Guy

    January 9, 2014 at 11:52 am

    “But realistically, are we going to ever abolish simulation?”

    No one has ever suggested that could be done, but it could be dealt with better than it is now. Retroactive punishment is already in use successfully. There is no reason it can’t be used for blatant/repeated acts of diving.

    Please don’t say,”But you can’t tell!” Yes you can and we’ve all seen it. Saying it can’t be done or making apples to oranges comparisons to other fouls isn’t the answer.

    “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”…S. Johnson

    • Matt Jones

      January 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      The mentioned Eduardo dive was pretty blatant, but look at the clamour banning him caused.

      It’s one thing to retrospectively cite someone for a bad tackle, but to essentially label them as a serial cheat is another matter entirely.

      Can you honestly see the FA or any of the other governing bodies having the bottle to go down that route? Clubs kick up a fuss these days over the slightest thing, just imagine the backlash this’d cause! It’s a shame, but I just can’t see anything being done to prevent it.

      • Guy

        January 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm

        I agree they won’t do anything….but they could. However, it would require growing a pair and we know what the chances of that are.

      • nicc

        January 9, 2014 at 1:33 pm

        if the Eduardo dive was “blatant” then why did the referee, after repeated viewings after the game and in his report to UEFA, still insist that he would award the penalty?

    • Terry Murphy

      January 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      You can even award a foul against a player who falls over. Ross Barkley fell over in the penalty area with no-one around him. Falling over and diving isn’t the problem. The problem starts the moment the player appeals for the foul. One rule could help this. If you appeal, you should either be given the foul or a yellow card – nothing in between.

      • IanCransonsKnees

        January 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

        It’d go some way to stopping the ridiculous claims some players make.

      • goisles01

        January 9, 2014 at 7:42 pm

        why pay attention to these players? While they roll around complaining the player they are not marking will be instrumental in the counter to provide a goal that may lose them a match

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