Retrospective Diving Bans: What’s Not to Like?

If you have even a fleeting interest in English football, you probably won’t need informing about the FA’s proposal to bring in retrospective bans for diving.

The Proposal…

On the off chance that you’ve been living in a cave or some other unconventional location which is devoid of any form of internet, news or TV access for the last few months, the FA have proposed plans to tighten up on diving in the game. A panel of three will watch back footage from the weekend each Monday, and hand out bans to any player they find to have cheated.

Surely, this is an absolute Godsend? Diving has been a problem in the game for a long time now, but the issue certainly seems to have worsened in recent years and has become a regular talking point. Barely a week goes by in the football world where we aren’t analysing if it was or if it wasn’t a dive. Should he of been booked? Was it a penalty/free kick? Were they robbed? Simply relying on the referee to make judgements about diving on the spot clearly hasn’t been cutting it, and in an era when we have the technology to do something about it, additional measures to prevent it are long overdue.

It’s Reception: A Preference For Video Referee’s

Strangely though, the proposal wasn’t entirely well received. One of the more publicly noteworthy of these being Sam Allardyce complaining that the proposal is “utter rubbish”, saying in a press conference that it wont help reversing decisions where someone is incorrectly booked for diving, although such a system does exist in Scotland.

Allardyce, like many other fans on social media, argues that it is the wrong way to address the problem, and joins others that are continuing to demand the introduction of video referrals to aid referee’s decisions.

The major complaint is that retrospective bans wont change the referee’s decision on the day if he gets it wrong, and so the team on the wrong end of the decision will still suffer and potentially be robbed of a result on the day regardless if the player receives a ban or not.

They may get their wish as well. The use of video referrals is being trialled, and have been used to aid a referee in multiple occasions now. The most prominent to us was it’s use to award England a penalty against France in a friendly at Wembley in June. It even resulted in Varane getting sent off. While the use of video referrals may be on the rise, they are still a novelty at the minute, and there’s no guaranteeing that they are going to make their way into the mainstream anytime soon.

Video Referee, France, England, Varane, Retrospective bans, diving.
A video referee is used to award England a penalty against France in a friendly in June. It also resulted in a red card for Varane. Source: Getty Images

Part of me believes that this is for the best as well. Video referrals may well have a place in helping improve the game, but is it the best to address diving in the game? I’m not convinced.

Why Would Bans Be Better?

The thing is, retrospective bans will act as a much better deterrent to diving than video referees will. When using video referees, as many journalists, fans and figures in the game such as Gareth Southgate and Ian Dennis point out, the decision is still down to the referee’s interpretation of the incident and is therefore still open to human error. This means there is still a chance a player can get away with diving, and if the players know they have a chance of getting away with it, they may still judge it be worth the risk, and chance diving to win a foul.

With retrospective bans, however, the players aren’t likely to chance missing games to win one set piece. They will know that if they dive, a panel will review it multiple times and be able to impose bans, and as the panel will be able to watch the incident as many times as they need (whereas a video referee will still be required to make a decision as quickly as possible), it is much more likely they will get caught upon review. Add in that multiple personnel will be able to make the decision rather than one referee, the chances of them getting away with it are slim. This is a much heftier punishment than a booking.

Moreover, a ban is clearly a much heftier punishment than a booking. Players hate missing game time (maybe apart from Carlos Tevez in 2011), and them knowing that there is a high possibility of that for diving will make a lot of players think twice before throwing themselves to the floor. The heftier the potential punishment, the bigger a risk it is for the player, and therefore less likely to risk diving. This is why I think significant bans should be handed out, maybe even up to five or six games if they are caught. It may seem over the top, but it would show players that officials are serious about clamping down on the issue, and as discussed the heavier the punishment, the better it works as a deterrent. It deserves to be significant as well, diving tarnishes the legitimacy of the game.

It deserves to be significant as well, diving tarnishes the legitimacy of the game. Not only can it unfairly affect the outcome of the game, but it’s embarrassing as a fan. It’s desperate and pathetic when a player feels the need to dive to gain an advantage in the game. Look at Diego Costa acting like he’d been hit in the face on the last day of the season against Sunderland, and Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final. Neither were even in a position where they desperately needed a way back in the game. They just did it because they could and it makes the sport a laughing stock. This is what needs to be stamped out. When a rugby fan describes football players as girls it’s hard to defend it when you see some players are throwing themselves to the ground like an anvil in Looney Toons at every opportunity.

It’s a serious issue, and a serious issue merits a serious punishment.

Sergio Ramos, Dive, Cuadardo, Champions League Final, diving, simulation, red card, retrospective bans.
Sergio Ramos’ act of simulation in the Champions League Final this year was one of the most recent and high profile in a long and embarrassing list of those that took place last season. Image source: soccerinfomania.

In short, video referee’s only help address the symptoms of the problem, whereas retrospective bans address the cause. Video referees may address the effects of diving on the game, but retrospective bans will help prevent diving full stop. There is a place for both in the game, and it would be great to see both introduced in an effective way. But if only one proposal were to get the green light, I’d want to see bans introduced before video referees.

Featured image source: PA

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