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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 3:54am

United's David Moyes diving in to stop cheating rot needs support of Fifa, Uefa

United boss's stance on widespread acts of cheating is admirable, but changing players' mindsets must be global, not just in EPL

BIO

Peter Simpson is a China-UK based journalist and the SCMP’s former Beijing 2008 Olympics news editor. He has covered major international news and sporting events, most recently the London 2012 Olympics and Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Peter is a Premier League season ticket holder at newly promoted Southampton FC.
 

David Moyes might be left wanting when it comes to polishing the contents of his silverware cabinet, but the Manchester United manager secured one crown this week - the unofficial anti-diving tsar.

He plunged into the never-ending debate and caused a modest tsunami that we must hope will gather force as it cascades across the footballing continents to wipe the cheats from the face of the turf.

Moyes said he would censor jackknifing Ashley Young for theatrically tumbling during their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last Saturday. But he warned the problem is now so widespread he fears Young and his fellow tombstoners have sunk too deep in their free-fall mentality to take any notice of the odd yellow card or the few grand extracted from their bulging wage packets.

So he went one radical step further. He called for video technology to be used retrospectively by a powerful Football Association disciplinary panel. "I have said for many years diving is something we should have retrospective video for. That would help referees no end," said Moyes.

Moyes has previously fined players at Everton for diving, including Phil Neville, now a member of his backroom staff at Old Trafford. And he was outspoken in his criticisms of Luis Suarez - like Young, another with a history of diving - before the Merseyside derby last season.

Fans on the terraces of all hues stand together with the United manager.

We know diving is ruining the game. Aside from the obvious dishonesty, it peppers a match with stop-start infuriation. Those who insult the laws of the game, as well as gravity, have us on our feet wagging our rolled-up programmes in disgust.

The too-often myopic or lenient refs who fail to properly punish the cheaters also receive our wrath.

Palace chairman Steve Parish waded in after Young's chicanery, saying he wants players shown straight red cards.

Former England centre half and United central rock Rio Ferdinand backed Moyes' call. Defenders bear the brunt of the divers, after all.

"It's become a part of our game that, as defenders we are used to," Ferdinand said after the Young incident. He said fullbacks have had to adapt their game because of the increased willingness of forwards to go to ground under any form of contact, phantom or real.

Increasingly, we not only boo the professional con artists, but chide more and more our children who emulate their heroes' tactics during jumpers-for-goalposts games in the park.

Some of the greatest players in the past 20 years have marred their talents with histrionics, from Didier Drogba to Rivaldo. Among the present notorious crop of current divers is new Real Madrid star Gareth Bale. He has received seven yellow cards for practising the darks arts of simulation since 2006-07. Yet that did not stop him from becoming the world's most expensive player.

What kind of message does that send to youngsters? It is certainly proof that within the dressing room acting is considered an important part of a player's skill set.

The challenge now is to erase it and change the way the players think about cheating.

A weekly name and shame campaign has been launched by former EPL ref Graham Poll in partnership with a UK newspaper.

Perhaps we can go one step further. Perhaps the offenders should be made to appear on Team GB Olympic diver Tom Daley's dreadful reality TV programme, Splash!, where B-list celebs are put through the high and springboard paces and then judged by a panel.

If you have not seen it, consider yourself fortunate. The critics reacted thus: "utterly awful", "a new low for television" and "probably the worst programme ever screened in prime times".

Nothing hurts a footballer's ego more than a wave of derision for their utter uncoolness. So yes, force them to walk the board. Better still, make them wear leather budgie smugglers.

All gimmicks, of course. But that is how desperate we fans, managers and some players are for action.

Introducing a retrospective punishment system exclusively for the British leagues is the most sensible course - a firm, upright step in the right direction.

But as Ferdinand was quick to point out, Uefa and Fifa would have to follow suit to make it work and change the mindset globally.

The diving rot has for too long been accepted as annoying pantomime by the players, those we pay top dollar to watch.

They are paid a fortune to behave and set examples for our children. They act as ambassadors not just for football, but for sportsmanship and the spirit of fairness that impacts on wider, civil society.

Yet they return our generosity, values and loyalty with deceit. They swindle us and in any other industry such a crime would fall under the umbrella charge of corruption.

So hats off to Moyes. Let him take the lead and dive right in and help save the game.

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