Football.co.uk welcomes a new voice this week, sure to spark lively debate and divide the sporting nation on a regular basis The Antagonist begins with a look at the diving debate and suggests a novel solution.
What is it with diving in football? Uefa's latest decision to rescind Eduardo's three week ban for allegedly diving in the Champions League qualifier with Celtic, has further thrown into confusion how to deal with this somewhat sinister practice which has insidiously worked it's way into our game.
Cheating to gain an advantage in sport has always been around of course. The problem now is that the stakes are so much higher and the opportunity for a myriad of television replays from multifarious angles and at a variety of speeds can clarify the situation and give the culprit nowhere to hide.
I have to say that the 840 views I had of the Eduardo incident all confirmed to me that he unashamedly launched himself dramatically 'swallowlike' into the ether.
However, Arsenal have somehow managed to produce their own video evidence that there was some minor contact between Boruc, the Celtic keeper, and Eduardo which was enough to throw him off balance.
Could this have been brought to us by the same Company who managed to convince the world that man stepped on the Moon in the 1960s?
Originally, Arsene Wenger, rather desperately in my opinion, tried to suggest that Eduardo still had his recent broken leg in his mind as Boruc came out to challenge him, and took evasive action.
This sort of suggests to me that even Wenger didnt believe that any contact took place until this extraordinary new video came to light. One wonders if we will see Eduardo taking such evasive action in other areas of his life.
Will he leap into the frozen food freezer in his local supermarket when a rogue trolley enters his airspace for example?
So what is the answer? Surely we need to find a method of deterring this underhand practice.
The instigation should, you may suggest, come from within the Clubs themselves. Unfortunately, it is probably too much to expect a manager whose job security, probably more than any other profession, is reliant on results, to condemn a practice which could be the difference between winning or losing a game: retaining or losing his job.
They will take the view that 'you win some you lose some' and just hope that the former outnumbers the latter. I am sure that the pervading, if unspoken attitude of the majority of Premier League managers is 'Do it if you can get away with it'. So we must stop them getting away with it.
My suggestion is, of course, ludicrous but sometimes desperate times need desperate measures. I propose that a 'Dubious Penalty Panel' is set up (similar to the 'Dubious Goals Panel') whose job it would be to scrutinise every penalty awarded in the Premier League and, if they decided a player had dived and a goal resulted, that goal would be deleted as would be any subsequent goals in that match for the offending team, if the result had been a sending off for the innocent party.
Also a fine and suspension for the offending player should be mandatory But, you might say, what if the player has either fallen to take evasive action (as Wenger suggests happened to Eduardo) or he dives, but immediately regrets his action?
I would suggest that, before the referee awards a penalty, he asks the 'fouled' player if he thinks he has been fouled and that a penalty should be awarded. This would give that player the opportunity to 'come clean'.
If he owned up, he would then be warned but not booked and the game restarted with a dropped ball (or free kick) from the location of the incident. Remember a few years ago when Robbie Fowler dived in a match and immediately gesticulated to the referee that it was not a penalty.
The referee gave it anyway: common sense out the window! My 'cunning plan' would encourage players to be honest or face the consequences. It would put them in a position where they would have to take individual and team responsibility for their actions and would take pressure off referees.
There are drawbacks, of course. As we have seen in rugby and cricket, both of whom now use video evidence, mistakes can still be made. An example is the 'grounding'(or not) of the ball when taking a catch in cricket which has proved to be, on occasions, particularly difficult to judge.
Sometimes the umpires instinct in 'real time' is more reliable. Similarly, in rugby, the 'was the foot in touch before the ball was touched down?' can be a less than clear cut decision.
However, unlike cricket and rugby, I am not suggesting an instant decision here, but a more considered one, under no pressure, after the game.
If there is clear doubt, the referees decision would stand but if it is clear that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, retrospective action could be taken. Drasic? What do you think? Any better ideas?
- The Antagonist