Friday night sees the return of the Football League in England and with it a new rule to retrospectively punish divers.
The “Successful deception of a match official” offence is to be used when a player has clearly dived, and an opposition player has been sent off or a penalty has been awarded. Footage will then be viewed by a panel made up of one ex-match official, one ex-player and one ex-manager who will determine independently of one another if the player is guilty. If all three members of the panel find the player guilty, the diver will receive a two match suspension which will be in effect before the player’s next competitive game.
This rule is just the latest in a history of attempts by the FA to eradicate diving from the sport and it has been met with a mixed response. Sam Allardyce, the former Crystal Palace and England manager described the rule as “utter rubbish” as it will still penalise those players who are wrongly adjudged to have dived by the referee.
Others such as ESPNFC pundit Alejandro Moreno doubts the effectiveness of the ban in dissuading players from diving, as those more practised in the dark arts will dive in such a way as not to be blatant. “If you know what you are doing, you can draw a foul…you will still get the call, and even if you don’t get the call you still won’t get a ban because you will have created enough doubt that it will not be a unanimous decision.”
The position of this writer is that the offence does not go far enough.
If we have decided that diving is such a blight on the game, then we need a meaningful effort to eradicate it from the sport. This ban does not do that. The new rule is too limited in application as to be meaningful. Whilst it could potentially prevent diving inside the area, those who dive on the edge of the area, or in other key areas on the field will still dive, even with the threat of a ban if an opponent receives a sending off. As Moreno said, if a player knows how to dive subtly, they will still dive and create enough doubt to avoid action.
The rule is a step in the right direction, but the FA have hamstrung themselves and limited its effectiveness; ultimately we will not see a reduction in diving, it will still be worth the risk. You can see why the FA have put in place the arbitrary limits on its use, but they are too restrictive. A better limit would be any dive in the opposition half, plus the sending off. A player will still dive for a penalty if it means three points even with the risk of a ban, but a player would twice less about taking a dive elsewhere on the pitch if it could result in a two match suspension for a marginal gain. This would reduce the volume of diving in a more meaningful way as managers would instruct players not to take the chance.
This is a proactive step from the FA and should be applauded as such, however, the new rule could and should go much further in an attempt to end diving and foul play.