So, Luis Suarez is being victimised by referees who simply don’t believe him when he goes to ground inside the box. Good. There are still a few injustices to go before the pesky Uruguyan is back in credit with the rest of us.
In the interests of fairness and equality, Luis isn’t the only bad boy. If you were to take a quick glance at the list of players booked for simulation already this season, you’d be there much longer than you imagine. Dozens have been named and shamed, and we all know this particular rogue’s gallery will continue to grow in the weeks and months to come.
Diving, I hear people say, is just part and parcel of our sport. But as a former player, I don’t understand why we accept the game’s cheats so readily. Often their antics are deemed as clever or somehow justifiable because there may have been the slightest brush of contact. And it’s not right.
Players know exactly what they’re doing when they go to ground, and those who con their way to victories should, in my view, be made Pariahs.
The game needs the managers on board first though. The problem is they benefit from just as many incidents as those that hurt them, so despite their occasional protestations there’s no real appetite for change.
I’ve played for managers who have had a pop at me, or my team-mates for staying on our feet when challenged inside the penalty area.
“You were inside the box, you should have gone down. What were you ******* thinking son?!”
Disgraceful really, isn’t it.
Most footballers will have been in a similar boat at some stage. It’s a train of thought held by most managers, who when stood at the coal face, in a place where results dictate whether they have a job or not, don’t give a flying you-know-what about morals as long as an important refereeing decision goes in their favour.
And that’s precisely why football continues to be scarred by the ugliness of players willing to hoodwink their way to victory. Knowing a successful dive inside the area will secretly please their boss, a yellow card is a risk easily worth taking. Why wouldn’t it be?
There’s no associated guilt either. In professional football land, where everyone has suffered an injustice, two wrongs will always make a right.
This is why I believe heavy-handedness is the only way to go. If football wants to clean up its act and kill off those nasty, diving cheats, it has to go down the Draconian route.
And that means ‘simulation’ should immediately be upgraded to a red card.
If a slightly mistimed tackle is regarded as unacceptable, then why isn’t blatant fraud treated with just as much disdain? Whoever they are, wherever they have committed their skulduggery, punish the offenders with a red card and a three match ban.
A suspended player is an unhappy player; and if there’s one thing a manager doesn’t like, it’s someone who isn’t available for selection.
A simple rule change and the deceitful footballer is already beginning to wonder whether it’s worth the risk.
But diving isn’t always a black and white issue. It can be subjective, where one man’s interpretation differs greatly from another. For every Tony Pulis there’s a Roberto di Matteo.
So what’s the answer? I think it’s got to be trial by jury. Not six weeks down the road when those three precious points are long gone, but right there on the spot, using video technology on appeal.
Premier League stadiums have giant screens, FIFA are determined to bring in the extra match officials behind the goal – so why not use them both if necessary?
I don’t see the problem with a simple appeals system.
If a defender feels wronged by an attacker's dive, he calls for the jury. Or, a forward red-carded for a dive can protest that he was actually fouled.
Then it’s over to the two penalty area assistants, plus the under-used fourth official to decide whether the ref got it right or wrong – in full view of the whole stadium and without conferring. Three unanimous yes’s or no’s (on their magic sticks or fancy buttons) and we have a much fairer decision. Any disagreements and the original refereeing call stands. A lost appeal results in a one match ban for the defender or forward.
You see, the point here is while pundits and protagonists will argue that there is grey area on some of these incidents, the fact is that players know if they’ve committed a foul, or taken a deliberate tumble. When they complain they are plain and simply trying their luck.
Would they risk a dangerous appeal in full view of the fans if they sincerely thought they’d been victimised? Probably not.
It’s time to get tough on diving, otherwise we really do have to accept that it’s part and parcel of our sport. And that'd be a sad day for The Beautiful Game.
Click here to read more from former Arsenal midfielder Adrian Clarke.