Broadly speaking, cheating is not tolerated in professional sports.
An NFL team has been put under investigation this season for allegedly using a banned "sticky" substance. The latest bout of deception in the cricket world has ended with a high-profile court case. Even in the realm of Forumula 1 motorsport, where teams strive to use every trick in the book to gain a competitive advantage, Ferrari were widely condemned for illegally spying on a rival.
If cheating is so widely chastised, why is it that the world's most popular sport is rife with diving? Why has this form of cheating become an acceptable part of the fabric of the game?
This week, we have witnessed two high profile examples of simulation. During Juventus' 1-0 win at Palermo, Leonardo Bonucci went down in comical fashion in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. He earned a yellow card for his troubles and, following the incident, the defender sheepishly tweeted an apology, claiming his deliberate attempt to fool the referee was "a bad example."
Arsenal's Santi Cazorla, however, showed no remorse for his controversial dive against West Brom over the weekend. The Spaniard took a dramatic tumble after a challenge from Albion's Steven Reid, winning a penalty for his duplicitous act.
The Daily Mail assert that Cazorla will make no apology for his actions, citing comments made to the Daily Telegraph two months ago about his attitude to diving:
"Sometimes you dive and yet it's not something that should be a big controversy.
"It's something that happens in football. Sometimes you're thinking: 'Will they touch me or won't they touch me?' You go over and then realise they haven't touched you. It just happens."
Diving is cheating. It is the act of trying to convince an official that a foul was committed when there has been no infraction. What does it say about the state of the game when the top players will openly admit that this is something they are happy to do on a regular basis?
Of course, diving is by no means a recent phenomenon in the Premier League. When Jürgen Klinsmann arrived at Tottenham in 1994, he brought with him a famous goal celebration that referenced his reputation as a diver. Fellow Tottenham hero David Ginola was comfortable to admit that his simulation theatrics were in the interest of winning.
But why is diving different from a deliberate handball? Or kicking an opponent behind the referee's back? They are both ways to gain an advantage by deceiving the official, and they should all be reprimanded appropriately.
With this in mind, it is time for the English FA to introduce new rules to punish and make an example of those who dive.
Since simulation is not part of FIFA's rules of the game, the FA are at liberty to introduce their own regulations to curb cheating. Gordon Taylor, the chief of the Players' Football Association (PFA), believes video technology should be implemented to give retroactive punishments to divers.
Following Cazorlagate, Taylor told Sky Sports News this week:
"I think it's going to be inevitable that if technology comes in for goalline decisions and penalty decisions, then it will help in [diving] situations. Other sports move on and use technology and do all they can to be as successful as football, so we've got to keep at that cutting edge."
If a player is suspected of diving, the referee (or an FA representative) should be allowed to review video evidence after the game and issue a punishment.
Arsene Wenger––who did not comment on whether Cazorla had dived––has suggested that an obvious flop should be punished with a three-match ban.
Such a lengthy ban may seem excessive, but if the FA want to truly eradicate diving, it will surely act as a deterrent.
Diving is also an issue that FIFA should take a tougher stance on. Surely it is remiss of an organisation that prides itself on the spirit of Fair Play to not issue guidelines to governing bodies for dealing with what is an epidemic of global football.
Santi Cazorla is by no means the first player to deceive a referee and should not be specifically targeted for anti-diving malice. But his laissez-faire attitude towards simulation shows that the FA needs to take action to change the culture of routinely hoodwinking officials.