After UEFA’s spectacular cock-up regarding the whole Eduardo diving affair recently, it looks like FIFA’s vice-prez Jack Warner wants in on the action. Warner suggested today that referees need to toughen up on players who dive or overact on the pitch and that in next year’s World Cup in South Africa, those judged to be attempting to con the referee could be sin-binned for five minutes.
Now don’t get me wrong, as I said when UEFA foolishly revoked Eduardo’s ban, I am well and truly in favour of the sport’s governing body taking a hard line on diving which is, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest blight on modern football. However, it seems blatantly obvious to me that sin-binning simply is not the way to go, and introducing it straight into the World Cup would be a huge mistake. FIFA need to act yes, but they need to think it through first.
Like every football fan the world over, Warner is sick and tired of seeing players faking injuries and then acting “as if it’s the end of the world” before jumping up and carrying on the second a free-kick is awarded. There’s no doubt that he has our sympathies there, but he proposes that players doing this “should be sent off, and [they] should be sent off for five minutes”, effectively introducing rugby’s sin-bin system on football.
Like many of FIFA’s proposals though, this idea is startlingly short sighted. Of course, we’d all love to have vigilant and ruthless referees who are on the ball enough to spot and punish players who try to fool them by diving and playing up the severity of their ‘injuries’, but the whole point of diving is that it is an attempt to fool the officials. While referees may spot some offenders, there are plenty of instances when a player manages to successfully deceive the man in black.
Of course, Warner seems to think that a player bounding back on to the picth full of beans again just moments after the tackle is as good as a guilty verdict, but that isn’t always the case. I’ve played football myself for many years and occasionally you get caught in a crunching (and not necessarily foul) tackle and pick up a dead leg or twisted knee which hurts like hell for a minute or two but can be successfully run off after that, allowing you to get back in the action at full speed.
Therein lies the problem. The whole affair of diving and simulation is something that can never be adequately policed on pitch in real time by the referees. No matter how good referees are, they will never be able to spot every attempt to deceive them, and occasionally they will punish players for diving or simulation who are in fact innocent. Thus, on pitch measures against diving will unfortunately never have much effect. That’s not a criticism of referees (though I’m not saying they’re much good either), but they’re only human and they can be easily deceived.
Indeed, this is proved only too well by the fact that referees have had license to book players for diving and simulation for a number of years, and yet there has been little to no effect on the amount of players willing to take a dive in order to earn themselves a free kick or penalty. If anything, despite these punishments being introduced, the amount of diving in football these days has continued to rise.
And this means that sin-binning players who are suspected of diving or playing up their injuries in order to deceive the referee will never be an effective punishment. Yes, in theory it’s a good deterrant to stop players diving and if every time a player dived they were caught, it would be effective. But players are cunning enough to know that they can, more often than not, get away with diving and deceiving the referee, so even if caught occasionally, they’ll continue to take the risk.
I maintain that the only effective treatment for the diving disease that’s infecting football will be a post-match analysis of the game, with significant bans dished out to every player caught trying to deceive the referee. UEFA actually had it right when they gave Eduardo his initial three match ban – if he’d missed three Champions League matches he would certainly think carefully about tumbling too easily in future.
Of course, it’ll never be all black and white, It’s sometimes hard to tell whether or not a player has dived even with video evidence, and in cases like that then we give them the benefit of the doubt. However, there are many, many instances when a player can clearly be seen to have attempted to con the officials – even if just going down too easily under a challenge – and they need to be dealth with harshly.
So I think that this proposal from Jack Warner is a very poor idea. I agree with his sentiments, and I’m glad to see that he is passionate about stamping out diving from our sport, but there’s no need to rush in with poorly thought out measures. And introducing it at the World Cup, the showpiece of world football, would have been a tragically bad idea too, and just confirms the lack of thought put into the idea.
All new measures and rules introduced into any sport will always experience some teething problems, no matter how small. That’s just the way things work I’m afraid, it will alwways take some practical trials to smooth the creases out and the World Cup is certainly not the time and place for experimentation. It’s a festival of football and all eyes should be on the action – not the experimental new refereeing measures being brought in.
So will we see sin-binning in South Africa? I certainly hope not. It wouldn’t surprise me of course, old Sepp and his pals over at FIFA are not exactly world renowned for their powers of deduction and reasoning and it would be just like them to try and turn the World Cup into a publicity stunt to try and eradicate diving – something they should have been doing years ago anyway. Let’s hope that for once, common sense prevails and we can look forward to a football feast of a World Cup.
Have your say:
Do you agree with me or Jack Warner? Want to see sin-binning introduced in South Africa? How do you think we should deal with diving? Leave your thoughts in a comment below…