When Samir Nasri stomped on Richard Garcia's foot in an unprovoked attack behind referee Steven Bennett's back at the Emirate's Stadium at the weekend, it raised a great deal of debate about the incident, with Arsenal fans validating his actions to Hull City fans, and neutrals decrying them.
The heated discussions and, in some cases rants, from Arsenal fans were varied and extreme from the physical nature of the Hull City performance, with Stephen Hunt singled out for his in-your-face interaction's with the Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, to the colour of Hull City manager Phil Brown's tan and his ear piece (that he hasn't used in nearly two months).
In a rant from one Gooner on a fan's forum it was claimed that Garcia had simulated the whole incident, with Nasri nowhere near Garcia.
Neutrals and Tigers fans alike have tended to highlight the fact that despite the slight over reaction to the personal assault by Richard Garcia, it was the fact that the Hull City players were keeping the Arsenal team in check, and it was the frustration of the Arsenal players at not been able to "boss" the game that lead to Nasri's attack.
However, the incident also raised a more interesting question, of just what simulation is, and what should be done to stamp it out.
By the FIFA ruling it is the act of simulating actions intended to deceive the referee. Under the FIFA rule it is warranted with a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
In this case was Garcia using simulation?
If the rule of the law is taken literally, then no, because simulation would mean that Garcia would have just fallen to the ground for no reason in an attempt to get Nasri sent off. Nasri had actually used violent conduct (a straight red card offence) with his stamp on Garcia's foot.
The question then arises, at what point does Garcia's action become unsporting behaviour? For all of Nasri's malicious intent, for Garcia to fall down as if shot was not sporting behaviour. It is however, a subjective point, and referees can get these decisions wrong especially if the offence is behind their back and not witnessed by the referee's assistants.
So, if a player is actually fouled and proceeds to rolls around on the floor like he has had his legs cut off from below the knees, is that simulation, and worthy of a yellow card? As stated above, by the law it isn't but it certainly isn't sporting behaviour in anyway.
The use of video review panels should be allowed to adjudicate all on-field actions, and this should be done after every game in the top leagues in the world where all games are now recorded from up to 20 different angles.
As is stands by the F.A. their review panel can not take action if the ruling on the field is appropriately direct for the incident. In the case of Nasri they are contemplating taking action retrospectively because Mr. Bennett's ruling on the field was to issue Nasri a yellow card for unsporting behaviour. After reviewing the video evidence they can change the ruling to fit the crime of violent conduct.
The ludicrous nature of the F.A. rules were there for all to see last season when Hull City's Craig Fagan was viciously assaulted by Newcastle United's Danny Guthrie when, out of frustration, he made a two-footed challenge that broke both of Fagan's legs.
The referee on the day sent Guthrie off for violent conduct but the three-match ban was clearly insufficient for the nature of the offence but because the referee had made the correct ruling on the field the F.A. could not change the ban for Guthrie from the normal three game ban for the red card.
The ban was nothing in comparison to the six plus months that Fagan was out injured.
The F.A. should be allowed to review the video of all games, and to retrospectively alter the ruling on the field when it comes to referee's decisions on fouls and simulations. Even where the referee has already made the right call on the field as in the Guthrie incident the punishment in that case did not fit the crime.
If the F.A. were to review the Arsenal-Hull City match of last weekend, Manuel Almunia should be awarded a yellow card for simulation, as he deliberately and directly intended to deceive the referee, an unsporting behaviour offence and receive a yellow card. Nick Barmby and Mikael Silvestre should join Almunia with yellow cards for unsporting behaviour.
However, Garcia should not be given a yellow card for the offence because of the actual foul on him by Nasri, his over-reaction was an attempt to emphasise the incident to the referee, but his action should be noted as a mark against his name with an accumulation of marks reflected in a future ban, such as a "three strikes and you are out" approach.
As stated earlier, Nasri's yellow card should be increased to a red card for violent conduct, as the referee clearly got the ruling wrong.
Unfortunately, the F.A. will sit on their hands and do nothing. Until the governing bodies in world football start to penalise players that are clearly cheating, whether to win a penalty, a free kick, or to get a player a yellow card, they will continue to do so.
The days of gentlemanly conduct are long gone and as players' actions are seen from every position possible it means the referee's job is increasingly difficult.
With this in mind the review of the game should be done by the officials who were officiating the actual match. That way they have a feel for the intent of actions which another official may not have, because they were actually on the field.
That way if a referee made a mistake on the field they can then correct their own mistakes which will allow them to not loose the respect of their peers, and to be seen to be fair and open.
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