Some of the biggest and most controversial decisions in the game have involved this very topic. Diving or “simulation” as is the correct vernacular, is when a player pretends that they have been fouled in order to win a free kick or penalty. Scoring in football is hard, a penalty or free kick within 25 yards is great opportunity for teams to get a goal. If a player is caught simulating, they are issued with a yellow card. So, the reward really does out way the risk especially for penalties. The only circumstance where it does not is when a player is caught simulating and they are already on a yellow card meaning that they would then be sent off.
Personally, I have never dived, it doesn’t really come into my mind when I play. There is no thought that says, “I am going to go into this and try and win a penalty”. That’s just me, I am too focused on not losing the ball (because it happens very often). I would like to think that most people also have that attitude as well. I do know some people who say they have dived or at least attempted to dive (very badly). They do it for the same reason as Ronaldo, Neymar and Suarez, its hard to score and a penalty no matter what level is a great opportunity to do so. Depending on the situation, it may even end up with an opposition player being sent off.
Now it seems unfair to me that the defensive team could concede a goal and lose a player as a result of an attacking player diving. But an offensive team only receives concede a yellow card and a free kick.
Surely it is in the interest of the game to even up the risk vs reward situation surrounding diving. I think that it should be a straight red for any player caught simulating. It is effectively cheating. It is not much different to a defender taking out a striker who is through on goal. If that player is sent off for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity, then a player who is caught simulating should be sent off for “attempting to create a clear goal scoring opportunity through simulating contact with another player”. It could genuinely come under “cheating, un-sportsmen like conduct and in bad taste of the game.
I am aware that there will be some people that say that a send off is to harsh for someone simulating. Ummm is it? Players get sent off for handballs on the goal line even if they are unintentional. No one accidently simulates that’s just someone tripping over or falling. Diving is a conscious decision made by an individual in order to attempt to gain an advantage by exploiting the rules of the game. That should be a sendoff.
Now Let’s talk about how you would be able to catch this out. Thankfully there is VAR, VAR would be able to at anytime in the match look over an incident and communicate to the referee on the field what has happened. In the next stoppage in play the referee would then walk over to the player who simulated and send them off. Play on from wherever the ball went out or was stopped.
How do you now enforce this new change to the game? Is there a little more leniency given to challenges with minimal contact? Starting from the very obvious. If a player is not touched by another player following the challenge and that player goes to ground as if they were fouled, then this is clear simulation and should receive a red card. Any defender who gets a part of the ball before getting the player in possession has not committed a foul. This would only affect situations where the defender has gone in, not won the ball but also not hit the player.
Another situation where simulation occurs is when a defender’s momentum in a challenge has stopped and the player then attempts insight contact. This is where black and white very quickly turns to grey. How do you define when a defender’s momentum has stopped in a challenge? The simple answer is when the defender themselves has stopped moving. But football is a fast game and players move incredibly quickly, how can you expect to see that? Well that’s exactly what VAR is for.
I think of it this way, if an attacking player changes their line to create contact with another player in order to obtain a free kick or penalty then this is simulation. Unless, the player is deemed to be protecting the ball meaning that the ball is under there control. Any amount of contact is going to cause a sense of controversy around this. Questions will be asked. Did he really change his line? Had the defender’s momentum stopped entirely?
Any change in the game breeds controversy and I know that this would too. But we already have controversy from these situations. And most of the time they advantage the attacking team.
I would rather the question after the game be “Do you think he should have been sent off for the dive” Rather than “Do you think it should have been a penalty”. A penalty results in a direct attempt at goal and often is scored. Yes, going down to 10 men means that teams go down a man but that does not always result in them conceding. There have been plenty of cases where teams that have gone down a player, rallied to either hold on or score themselves and win.
My main point for raising this is because diving and simulation hurts the game. Especially in Australia. Maybe in some other countries it is an acceptable practice to try and win by any means necessary, however I do not feel that is the case here. Australian’s want to win that is no secret, but we want to win by simply being better than the other team, whether that’s working harder than them or by being more skillful. We do not want to win by compromising our integrity and bending the rules in order to obtain a result.
Diving and simulation are a reason for people to not play the sport in this country. Parents and individuals do not want their kids growing up learning how to bend the rules and in some peoples view cheat. I have heard footballers referred to as a bunch of divers and cheats numerous times. That is the image that some individuals have of football as a sport in this country. So, if we get rid of diving, then people cannot use that as an excuse to not like football. Now I am not dumb, and those people may find another excuse to not like the game. You can’t please everyone.
I think that it should 100% be upgraded to a red card. Yes, it would be very hard to enforce. But my reasoning is not focused on the enforcing of the new law. Its already not enforced enough when players are deemed to have “tripped” when it is very clear that they have dived. Prevention is better than the cure.
By increasing the punishment to a straight red card, you put in the back of players’ minds that if they dive, they will be sent off. Not only that but they will leave their team a man down, probably not get paid (if they are at a professional club, us amateurs do not get paid of course). The only reason punishment exists is because people do the wrong thing. If no body does the wrong thing then nobody gets punished. It’s the same for football if nobody simulates or dives then nobody gets sent off for it.
I believe that by making it a send off offence you would reduce the occurrence rate significantly. There will always be a few who try and push the boundaries, there always is but they would be few and far between. It will not stop it in all circumstances. Title deciding league games, Grand finals and Cup finals where the reward may outweigh the risk especially late in the game or in extra time. But these games only occur maybe 5 times in a year.
In conclusion even though it would be hard to enforce, I think its 100% worth it because it would dramatically decrease the amount of players diving. Therefore improving the image of the sport.