The Rational Ref

Naming and shaming Premier League players will curb scourge of cheating

FA must use retrospective video evidence to rid this appalling dishonesty from the game

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 2:51am

All players are cheats. Some are born cheats, some achieve greatness in cheating and some have this dreadful affliction thrust upon them.

The definition of cheating is "to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination".

Truth be told, every seasoned player cheats and acts dishonestly. Even so, it is extraordinary just how much cheating goes on in the game.

From straightforward ball out of play when players claim it is their ball, to deliberately handling the ball (recall Thierry Henry getting France into the 2010 World Cup and Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" that helped Argentina win the 1986 World Cup), to the present fashionable event of diving, the overriding aim is to always gain an advantage by hook or by crook.

Diving, or simulation as it is formally labelled by match officials, has reared its ugly head again in the EPL. It will continue unless there is a suitable deterrent to rid this appalling dishonesty from the game.

It was not only Manchester United's serial diver, Ashley Young, who was guilty. Captain Patrice Evra tried to con the referee, too, by falling too easily in the box. Referee Jon Moss ignored Evra's theatrics, but cautioned Young for simulation.

One of the reasons for this inconsistency is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for referees to identify diving. Some of the world's top referees officiating in Champions League - Spaniard Alberto Undiano and Dutchman Bjorn Kuipers - acknowledged this problem, saying: "Simulation used to be like a dive into a swimming pool, but today there are situations where the player practises how to provoke contact."

The British use the term "trawling for a foul" and the practice appears to be on the rise. In Young's case, it was obvious he left his leg low and dragged it across Palace defender Kagisho Dikgacoi.

Manager David Moyes is a rare breed and a breath of fresh air in the soccer world. He did not shirk responsibility and publicly reprimanded Young.

When Moyes was manager at Everton, he fined his players for diving, which last season included captain Phil Neville. So will there be a similar fine and penalty system within Manchester United? What about other managers and clubs? Are they all willing to maintain consistency and publicly declare they regard divers as cheats and therefore take internal action against their players?

What is needed is a change of attitude and behaviour towards simulation because the hypocrisy is damaging and pathetic.

When someone dives, opposition players, coaches and supporters react with genuine outrage. But when their own player dives, the reaction is significantly muted and is largely fobbed off as harmless and nothing serious. This hypocrisy is a huge reason why it is difficult to expunge this form of cheating.

It comes as no surprise that Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and others shirk responsibility. Ferdinand claims European countries need to crack down on diving, too.

"If it's going to happen, it's got to happen across the board, not just in our league. It's got to happen across Europe because, for instance, you go in the Champions League after we're being told in the Premier League you're not meant to dive and so on," said Ferdinand. It seems Ferdinand needs to be taught a basic moral principle: cheating is cheating, no matter who does it and where.

In addition to not having a moral compass, Ferdinand is being disingenuous. Pulling the plug on diving does not need to be Europe-wide; it need only start domestically. Since the EPL is followed by hundreds of millions around the world, the FA should take a responsible stance and use video evidence to sanction players for diving. The message will instantly get through to players, coaches, commentators and supporters on a global scale.

Naming and shaming cheats appears to be the best solution to crack down hard on divers. Referees need help and Moyes has also backed using retrospective video evidence to sanction players for simulation.

Unfortunately, for this season at least, the FA is only willing to use retrospective video evidence specifically for horrendous challenges that have not been properly dealt with by match officials at the time of the incident.

Naysayers and cynics who claim using retrospective video evidence is sacrilegious because it amounts to "re-refereeing the match" are ruining the future of the game. Taking retrospective action secures the game's future because, by supporting match officials and punishing cheats, it ultimately helps to curb any further unsporting, cheating and nefarious behaviour of players. We must take cheats out and the game will be much better for it.

A final note: Time-wasting, play-acting and provocation are other forms of cheating. There was plenty of dishonesty and deception on display during Tuesday night's AFC Cup quarter-final match between Kitchee and Al Faisaly of Jordan. Near the end of the match, Al Faisaly midfielder Junior flicked his hand across Alexander Akande's face and eyes in an attempt to provoke him. Referee Kim Sang-woo would have needed eyes in the back of his head to see it. Again, if no retrospective action is taken then players will simply continue with their nefarious ways because they know they can get away with cheating.

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