Is the pressure on referees to punish diving ruining the game we all love?
Diving and simulation has been in football for decades but the pressure has now been fully cranked up on referees to stamp it out of matches and to punish players accordingly.
As a result we are left with football matches where referees almost seem to be guessing whether a player has gone down deliberately as opposed to actually knowing that a player has dived.
Two good examples are Gareth Bale’s recent booking away at Sunderland and Fernando Torres’ second yellow card in the game at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United.
On both occasions the players had a good claim that they had been fouled but instead the referee raced up to them, put his arm out pointing the other way and then produced a yellow card, in Torres’ case it got him sent off.
This is nothing new and it will not change, there will be plenty more similar examples where players are punished when they have been genuinely fouled or where they are trying to get out of the way to avoid a serious injury.
So what’s the answer? Well I’m afraid it’s one that no football fan is going to like. The constant pressure leads to more mistakes, which leads to frustration, which will lead to pressure to change football.
There is already a lot of hearsay and debate in football over what is and what isn’t a foul. For example, most penalties are won by strikers who could stay on their feet but isn’t that just good initiative?
If a striker flies into the penalty box, he can try to win a penalty, he doesn’t have to be taken out in the process. He may have lost control of the ball, he may have no hope of scoring but if he feels a defender touch him slightly, he’ll go down.
This isn’t a dive, it’s just good play because he’s looking for the slightest foul. The problem is the pressure which is put on the referees to try and distinguish the difference between a genuine foul and where someone is trying to grift him.
There is still space for referees to use their initiative but we are going to get to a point where if a player goes down inside the penalty area or in any part of the pitch, it will either be a free kick, a penalty or a yellow card for diving.
This may mean referees get very trigger happy in matches. If they don’t know what has happened or they couldn’t see it, they will have to guess which is just going to lead to more and more incorrect decisions.
Is Bale being unfairly treated by referees?
image: © andybrannan