Diving ban sets right example for grassroots football

The Football Association’s clampdown on diving has received a mixed response from Premier League managers but, looking at the bigger picture, it must be good for the game.

The FA announced last week that, as of next season, players found guilty of diving or feigning injury across English football will receive a two-match ban for “successful deception of a match official” – a new offence based on a law already enforced in Scotland.

A three-person panel – consisting of an ex-manager, ex-player and ex-referee – will independently review video footage of the incident in question and if they unanimously agree that the player deceived the referee, a two-game ban will be issued.

The rule has been backed by the Premier League, Football League, Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers Association, although not all Premier League bosses were in favour of the move.

Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce described the decision as “utter rubbish”, whilst he and Swansea manager Paul Clement both called for the use of video technology to punish players during the game.

“It’s utter rubbish,” said Allardyce. “Bring technology in and we can look at it on the day, and then bring a sin-bin in so we can put him in the sin bin for 10 minutes and then put him back on. Stop paying all these people money to do rubbish situations in the game. That’s utter rubbish.”

Leicester City centre back Robert Huth described the new rule as “great news” whilst West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis also welcomed the move, saying diving was “something we want to take out of the game”.

“I’m pleased it’s the way forward,” said Pulis. “I don’t think there’s any place for it in the game. I would most probably fine the players as well and give the money to charity.”

Unsurprisingly, Sam Allardyce’s comments received the most publicity, but both his and Clements’ criticisms related to the new disciplinary process rather the need to clamp down on diving in the first place.

Big personalities like Big Sam create a big splash in the football media, but the ripples of a decision like this will be felt throughout the game – and that’s why this move should be welcomed.

Let’s call a spade a spade here: whether we use the term ‘diving’ or ‘simulation’, what we’re talking about is cheating.

As children we are told that cheats never prosper and any rules that reinforce that message to the millions of kids playing football today must be a good thing.

Diving is nowhere near the problem in grassroots football that it is at the top of the game, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur and so we should welcome any move to help stamp it out.

Of course, grassroots coaches and parents have the biggest influence on the behaviour of young footballers on the pitch but, like it or not, children will always be influenced by their heroes.

If a kid watches someone like Marcus Rashford conning the referee to win a penalty then that increases the chances of them trying the same thing on the pitch themselves – whatever Robbie Savage might think.

Coaches and parents must enforce the right message, but their job is made much harder if their advice is contradicted by what young players see with their own eyes on Match of the Day.

The process of punishing players by retrospective ban might not be every manager’s cup of tea. It won’t give justice to the team who suffers from the deception during the game in question, so it may not be the perfect solution.

But if a Premier League player knows that he could get banned for two games for diving then the chances are he’ll be less likely to do it.

If professionals dive or feign injury less then we should have fewer kids growing up thinking that this form of cheating is just part of the game… and that can only be a good thing.


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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer

Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.


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3 Comments

  1. James O'Rourke on May 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I am not in favour of criminalising young players whist I am in favour of eliminating diving.It is banned quite rightly in walking football to eliminate injuries and that ban on diving is good for that reason. Leave the coaches to deal with offenders because we need to keep team numbers up rather than having players dissapear because of a short ban.

    • Dan Pope on May 23, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Hi James. Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t suggesting that we need to ban kids for diving in grassroots football – more that if the FA clamp down on diving in the professional game, it helps set the right example for kids playing at grassroots level.

      I don’t think diving is a big problem in kids’ football, but nevertheless the right example should be set from the top. Coaches (and parents) must do the same, which includes making clear to anyone in their team who might dive that it’s the last time they want to see it.

      • James O'Rourke on May 23, 2017 at 4:24 pm

        Hi Dan

        Yes I completely agree with you and I often wish professional footballers could remember that they have a responsibility to behave properly on and off the pitch.

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