When Arjen Robben hit the deck against Liverpool, he managed to drag the reputation of English football down with him. The act of farce that Robben has bestowed on the football-going public was the culmination of years of cheating we have seen flourish in our new, money-fuelled super league we call the Premiership. It is important to stress that the problems we have in the game stretch far beyond diving. We have problems such as shirt pulling, false claims for offsides, fouls and throw-ins and, I feel, crowding the referee is an instance of cheating. All of these acts are committed to meet the simple end of gaining an unfair advantage over the opposition. Isn’t football, especially in the Premiership, about who is the best? We want the best players playing for the best teams to play the best football. We don’t want to see dubious offsides, penalties, and goals win games. We want to see players win games.
It appears that we are half way there. We have some of the best players in the world in our league, so why do they need to cheat to win? Take Jose Antonio Reyes. He is on the floor so much that when he was actually injured against Bolton. it was so hard to tell that he was not diving that even the physio had second thoughts about going on the pitch to treat him. He’s done more acting this year than the cast of Eastenders put together. It seems so needless when he has so much skill. Why does he need to cheat in order to beat players that he is better than? The same can be said for the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Didier Drogba. This is not just isolated to the top players either. It seems such a waste of talent to degrade themselves to resorting to petty cheating to win games.
The root of the problem also lies with the managers. It has been admitted that managers ask players to employ pressure tactics to influence officials, even if they are in the wrong. It is instances where both players will claim that it is their possession from a ball that goes out of play that are most frustrating. It is this type of unneeded, blatant cheating that tarnishes the reputation of the game. Both players cannot be right, so one of them is lying. It is the same with crowding referees. Groups of players, sometimes 6 or 7 large, shout unnecessarily loudly inches away from the referee. How often is this productive? The aim is to make the referee change his mind but more often than not results in extra bookings. The point remains that players are still trying to cheat by getting decisions changed. I feel it would be interesting to wire the referees up with microphones, like in rugby, to see what was said to referees and how the threat of punishment by the FA would diminish the problem. By inflicting a serious punishment and not making it worthwhile to try to intimidate the referee, we could seriously cut down on the problem. How many 6’7” rugby forwards do you see arguing with the referee?
So where do we go now? We have a serious problem with cheating and diving in football that grows with every passing week. It’s a growing threat that we need to remove before it becomes too far embedded into the game. It has to start in the dressing room. Hard fines, long bans and point docking are the best way to hit clubs both on and off the pitch. It may seem harsh but diving, hassling referees, shirt pulling and false claims are all cheating. It would not be fair to dock the other team points, but they can lose games based on players diving for penalties, impeding forwards and the use of deception. When you look at the truth of the matter, a ban or loss of points seems just. We then need managers to be honest. Stop defending players who cheat. The amount of times Arsene Wenger has said he didn’t see a major incident concerning an Arsenal player means that it is no coincidence. The same can be said about most Premiership clubs. Premiership managers should stop working in the hypocrisy they have created for themselves, instil some moral standards into the team and make an example of those who flout them. This is a modern phenomenon in the domestic game that concerns all players, regardless of nationality, that we need to quickly reverse.
By Sean Henderson