Diving, How do referees combat simulation?

Diving, the single most controversial topic in Football. Although it’s a bookable offence to attempt to con the referee, this doesn’t stop Premier League players from attempting to dive regularly. Last weekend there were multiple attempts to win a penalty by looking for contact. Lucas for Liverpool was spotted and suitably punished. Marcus Rashford on the other hand was successful in winning a spot kick despite replays showing that it was simulation and not a foul.

Who is guilty of diving?

According to The Mirror, there have been 22 yellow cards for simulation given this season. There are some very high profile names that have been punished for this offence, including Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Raheem Sterling. Leroy Sane, Moussa Dembele and Christian Benteke. Just these six players alone are worth a staggering £257 million based on their previous transfer fees. Only three of the 22 players booked for diving this season were English, but that doesn’t mean that foreign players are the main culprits. If anything, the diving culture that is now in the Premier League is rubbing off on English players to the point of no return.

Current guidelines for diving.

With the current rules on diving stating that an attempted dive is an offence punishable by a yellow card. The problem with this isn’t the punishment but is finding the difference between a genuine dive and a foul. Players have become smarter when attempting dives now, with the attacking player now looking for a foul by allowing their body to feel for contact, rather than avoiding the tackle. This makes it increasingly difficult for referees to combat diving as often they cannot even tell the difference between a dive and a foul.

Would VAR help with this in the future?

This only increases the debate into the use of technology in football. Although we now have goal line technology in the Premier League, the inclusion of a video referee is considered the next step. The arguments against VAR are mainly about how it will slow down the game with decisions needing to be reviewed. This would be hard to enforce for diving unless it has been awarded as a penalty, as play wouldn’t get stopped for free kicks due to how often they occur in a match. Also would the addition of video reviews mean a different punishment for diving? With the benefit of seeing a dive and being able to punish the offender at the same time, would a yellow card be sufficient anymore or would something harsher be required?

So, what can referees do to stop diving?

There’s not much they can do that they don’t already enforce. If referees don’t know that a player has dived, they cannot punish them. The punishment could increase to a red card or more likely a one or two match suspension. But this would prove controversial as in certain situations it can be a matter of opinion, some could say it is a definite dive while others may believe there was contact or even the intent to commit a foul. Until an answer is given regarding the use of video technology to tackle simulation, things look set to stay the same for now.


Author: George Vines

Football Business & Media Studies; UCFB Wembley

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