The Olympic sport of diving seems to have made a comeback on football pitches up and down the length of Britain.
This season it’s turned friends against friends, sons against fathers, and West Ham United fans against the Football Association in the aftermath of Swansea defender Chico Flores’s decision to hit the ground rolling after a tussle with West Ham forward Andy Carroll.
Now, a disclaimer—I’m a West Ham season ticket holder, and had perhaps one of the best views of the incident but couldn’t make heads or tails of it at the time, so I do not envy the position of referee Howard Webb in having to make a split second decision as to the outcome of the challenge from Flores and the resulting backwards swing of Andy Carroll’s arm.
What I am frustrated with is that the reaction from Flores was not only completely acceptable in both the eyes of the FA and Howard Webb, but it’s becoming more and more commonplace in the Premier League, and very little is being done to deter players from doing it.
Simulation has certainly seen an increase in bookings in the Premier League. According to the BBC, in the 2012-2013 season 34 yellow cards were shown for simulation – which was 14 more than in the 2011-2012 season, and the highest number over the past four years (BBC Sport.)
It was only in 2008 that mandatory yellow cards were introduced for simulation, hence the initial higher numbers, but is that doing enough to keep it out of the game?
The troubling thing is that often it’s the same names making the headlines for diving – Ashley Young, Luis Suarez, Adnan Januzaj, as well as Fernando Torres and Gareth Bale – who has had a whopping 7 yellow cards for simulation between 2008 and his departure from the Premier League. Players don’t seem to repent, and a yellow card hardly seems a deterrent.
Earlier this season, there were calls from Manchester United manager David Moyes to instigate retrospective action to pushing diving players – which was an interesting statement as it was made after his own player, Ashley Young, received a yellow card for diving against Crystal Palace.
The dive left Palace Chairman Steve Parish incensed, as he argued that it contributed to the defender accused of fouling Young later being booked and sent off. Parish stated that “Young has a yellow card and three points, and we have no points and one less player to pick from for the next game.”
This is made more frustrating by the fact that incident was not Young’s first time in the spotlight – he was also previously publically called up on it by Sir Alex Ferguson after a serious of penalty awards won by diving.
Considering the above, it’s easy to see why managers are left so frustrated by diving and simulation. Often the penalty for such an act is almost worth the player doing it – for proof, look at the Flores situation.
Yes, West Ham gained a valuable three points from the match, but they are without undoubtedly their best player for three crucial relegation games – a situation which becomes more uncomfortable when considering that the Swans are now relegation rivals.
Why shouldn’t Flores have made a meal out of Andy Carroll’s arm? What consequences has he learned from it – besides that he reduced the potential for a relegation rival to earn 9 points?
What do children watching that game learn from it? Actions are supposed to have consequences, so why doesn’t diving have consequences? And—most importantly— why doesn’t the FA appear to have a vested interesting in stamping simulation out of the beautiful game?
Something needs to change in the game; because sadly, if some players can get away with cheating, they will—and why not? Honestly doesn’t always put three points in your pocket, and there’s hardly any punishment for cheating—especially if you get away with it.
As for the Hammers, they’ve been kicking and screaming for the ban to be overturned, but the real justice would be not just to overturn some of Carroll’s ban (only he really knows the intent that went into his arm swing) but to retrospectively instigate punishment to Flores—even though that’s but a pipe dream.
As for Sam Allardyce’s future plans, he’s stated that “despite everything, I will not be advising my players to roll around on the floor tomorrow.”
Good advice, Sam, but how long will teams resist the temptation when everyone else is getting away with it?