Let’s shop football’s divers and make a stand for change

I can’t work out what infuriates me more; a footballer diving to win a penalty, or the pundits who review the decision on TV brazenly insisting the culprit is innocent.

Both are reprehensible and it’s high time we stopped making excuses for the guilty parties.

It happens most weeks and we’ve shared this debate a million times, but what Wayne Rooney did when theatrically losing his balance as he skipped over the advancing Preston North End goalkeeper was cheating. The Manchester United and England captain conned referee Phil Dowd into thinking he’s been knocked over, and he did so, with a blatant dive.

Had this incident occurred anywhere else on the pitch (especially if the goal had been at his mercy) Rooney would have had no problem staying on his feet.

You can be sure of that.

As he jumped over the challenge United’s skipper didn’t even have to break stride, let alone lose his balance completely. There is only one reason why Rooney fell to the floor, and that’s because he knew a penalty would be the likeliest outcome. It was out of order.


Roy Hodgson and Phil Neville should hang their heads in shame for trying to justify his actions too. In many ways they’re just as bad because they are perpetuating the myth that ‘intent’ or any type of ‘contact’ means it’s OK to throw yourself to the ground. It’s not.

When asked if his captain had dived, the England boss said:

“Not for me. I just think he was taking evasive action. The goalkeeper has gone with both feet. Wayne has touched it past him.”

Former United defender Neville, predictably agreed. Fair play at least to fellow BBC panelist Kevin Kilbane for having the courage to say what he saw, which of course was ‘a dive’.

Hodgson and Neville didn’t want to accuse Rooney of pulling a fast one, so they chose to try and pull the wool over the public’s eyes instead. Sorry chaps, it isn’t fooling us anymore.

Let’s be honest every club has benefitted from a dive or two. Every club has almost certainly seen points vanish by the wayside courtesy of simulation too. You win some you lose some. This isn’t just a Manchester United thing; everyone’s been at it for years and getting away with the swindle, scot-free.

It’s time to take a stand and finally eradicate this poisonous element of the game, and snuff it out once and for all.

Until technology is mercifully introduced to football (please let it be soon) the only thing we can do as fans, is lobby and protest for retrospective action to be taken by the authorities.

You can’t take a goal back after the final whistle, so the only option is to punish the offender individually by way of a suspension. If a panel unanimously agrees the player cheated, a three-game ban must be the minimum deterrent; repeat offenders should get more.

In reality it should be simple to bring in.

At all levels of the game where there is sufficient camera footage available, every team or manager has the right to send off a post match complaint to the powers-that-be. Not about the ref, about the player tricking him. In Preston’s case they wouldn’t be reinstated into the FA Cup, but at least they would have played their part in bringing the con man (Rooney) to justice.

In normal life if a person cheats another of something, we want to see them punished, right? Why shouldn’t it be the same in football? Key decisions can also cost people their livelihoods too remember.

To get this off the ground the FA, the Premier League, Football League, UEFA, FIFA and co, should show they mean business by actively pursuing footballing cheats. If they see a wrong, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t use their power to right it? Clubs must be encouraged to shop divers in too, by being able to request video reviews.

Knowing you’ll get grassed up, and knowing that a three-match ban is on its way WOULD deter most footballers from taking a tumble. I’m convinced of it.

Ordinarily I’d oppose a nanny state like this, but for now if it’s the only way to rid football of diving cheats then so be it.

While we’re at it, maybe the TV companies can dish out suspensions of their own for verbal misdemeanors too. Mr Hodgson, you’ve been warned.


Photo credits: Flickr (Creative Commons – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))





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