Diving: 5 Things FIFA and UEFA Could Do to Stamp It out
Football has many ills at the moment. From monetary problems at the highest and lowest levels of the game to match-fixing at every level to players losing touch with fans and the common man through obscene wages, there are problems to be repaired everywhere.
However, the biggest problem the game faces is from within. It is the very pestilence that is diving that is causing the modern game more problems that almost all the others put together.
The worst part of all is that the players we hold in our highest esteem seem to be the very players who are the worst and most regular offenders.
The more the problem continues, the more the game loses credibility, and as we near the end of 2012 it now seems more than ever that FIFA and UEFA must get together to confront this problem head on.
Read on to see five suggestions on how FIFA and UEFA can take on and defeat the divers who are ruining our game.
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The first and most obvious place to start when confronting diving in football is with retrospective punishment.
When looking for a solution for any incident either missed by the referee or over-punished by the referee, retrospective punishment will have the least amount of impact upon the game within the 90 minutes of play.
The general idea of this type of action is that a panel of experts will sit down after every match and analyse each and every incident during the game and act accordingly upon whether cards need to be given or rescinded.
It all sounds very simple but both FIFA and UEFA have avoided the use of RP for decades even though it is the easiest and least obtrusive solution to implement.
Many football federations around the world have flirted with the idea of implementing RP but none have done so—up until this season.
MLS in America has become a pioneer in the field of tackling on-field incidents by setting up a Disciplinary Committee that reviews every single game.
After which, suspensions can be given, rescinded and in rare cases extended upon. Yellow cards can be beefed up to red if the panel deem them worthy and, of course, bookings can also be removed if the referee has made a mistake.
The MLS Dis-Com Mission Statement reads;
To preserve the integrity and reputation of the game and Major League Soccer, and to assist in ensuring player safety.
To read the principles and parameters of Dis-Com, click here.
The system is still in its infancy and will obviously be tested across an entire season to iron out the creases, but once it is up and running in the way it is envisioned the MLS system might very well be rolled out across the world.
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Player tracking is not a new technology.
Think of any time you have seen a computerised version of a match incident rotated around to show different view angles and you won't go far wrong.
This system has been in place for a while now and relies heavily upon television camera images to build up a complete picture of the pitch and each player's movement.
From here the computer attached to the system extrapolates the information from each camera and builds what is basically a 3-D image that can be rotated and moved to whatever angle is needed.
With such technology each incident could be replayed in an incident centre where a fifth official could stand judge over incidents the referee may or may not have missed.
The problem here, as far as diving is concerned, is that we will be looking at a computerised image of an incident that happened at pace and whether today's computers, as fast and as powerful as they are, are capable of reviewing such episodes remains to be seen.
While computerised tracking may not be ready just yet, standard manual tracking using television cameras already is.
Having a camera track each and every individual player would be relatively easy to implement in this modern age. It would, however, be extremely time consuming and expensive to roll out.
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In many ways, one of the toughest sports on the planet leads the way in terms of refereeing.
They have to, considering the damage that each player can give to their opponents.
The sport is generally refereed to the highest standard, with seven officials on the pitch at any one time with a TV umpire reviewing anything the seven-man team has missed.
The referee and his team take up tactical positions around the line of scrimmage and observe each section and phase of the play as it develops.
The problem in comparing soccer to the NFL is that American football phases of play usually only last a number of seconds while soccer is continuous with no break in play until it stops.
There are already four officials used in standard league play, at any level, and six at Champions League level—with the two extra being assistants who act as observers behind each goal.
In the past, experiments have been carried out with a referee in each half and a linesman on side of the pitch (four instead of two), but communication problems have caused play to break down and incidents to be missed.
This system could, as far as diving is concerned, be utilised if the main referee was in the TV position who then acted as a foreman to the referees on the pitch.
They would then carry out his instructions, but it would be near impossible to use for offside incidents.
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FIFA and UEFA, at this very moment in time, do not want to change the game.
The main reason for this is that, essentially, the game of football is the exact same at every level—be it under-age, professional or casual.
In theory this, of course, is correct.
However, the reality of the sport is that professional football is a million miles away from amateur in every meaning of the word due to multiple reasons. With the main reason being money and the interest in the money the sport generates through revenue, sponsorship and bookmaking amongst others.
UEFA and FIFA still observe the game through romantic rose-tinted glasses so in that respect the best, easiest and most cost effective plan to implement is the old traditional yellow card.
The idea behind this is that while football has moved towards the attacking player and has given them the benefit of the doubt regarding offside.
The game would then, in turn, give the benefit of the doubt to defender in incidents where the referee is unsure of whether a player dived or not.
Thus the natural decision, unless the referee is 100 percent sure that the attacker was taken down, would be to deem that the player has dived and give them a yellow card—thus giving the benefit of the doubt to the defender.
Would it cut diving out of the game?
Probably not, as tactical diving by a player without a booking may still happen. But, it possibly would have the impact of cleaning the game as accumulative bookings eventually lead to suspension.
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Citing is a system used in rugby whereby teams can request that certain incidents from a match be reviewed retrospectively.
In the case of football citing could be used to review numerous decisions and incidents throughout a game.
The first version would see real-time incident reviewing take place through the fourth or TV official.
Teams would be restricted to the number of incidents they can ask for review per match with a set review time to be agreed upon so as not to restrict the flow of a game.
Version two would see the citing review take place after a match where clubs again request certain incidents to be reviewed.
The result, however, cannot be changed.
In an ideal world, a mixture of Version 1 and Version 2 might serve the game best with the number of citing incidents at professional and televised level be restricted to, perhaps, three per team per game. With another one or two cite reviews after the match has finished.