English Premier League: The Cheating Has to Stop

Terry CarrollContributor IIIMarch 12, 2012

English Premier League: The Cheating Has to Stop

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    For far too long, diving and other forms of cheating have been disfiguring the game we love.

    It doesn't help that fans of the team concerned condone it, or at the very least don't criticise it. What does damage the game, as much as the act itself, is that managers condone it and some even coach it.

    This article is not just about diving (or simulation to be more correct). It's also about the other things going on in the game that regulators and officials are either not stopping or are powerless to stop.

    Unsporting behaviour

    The slide at the top of this article is taken from the FA Cup match between Sheffield United and Arsenal. An account of what happened is given here.

    In short, a Sheffield United player was injured. The match was stopped and restarted with an Arsenal throw-in. Instead of, conventionally, returning the ball to Sheffield United, the Arsenal player Kanu took the ball forward and passed to Overmars, who scored.

    The referee was powerless to intervene because apparently no rule had been broken. Steve Bruce and his United players were incensed, and they lost the tie.

    In one of the most magnanimous sporting gestures in history, Arsene Wenger insisted that the tie should be replayed.

    (It's a pity that Thierry Henry wasn't playing in that match, because he might have been just as generous to the Irish team in the World Cup qualifiers, after blatantly handling the ball before scoring.)

    The goal that wasn't given

    Last weekend produced yet another example of one of the things that exasperates most football fans—a shot that was clearly well over the line, but the referee was unable to give the goal in the Bolton-QPR match.

    Frankly, the FA's rapid response was pathetic. What they said was: 

    "Following last week's meeting of IFAB (International Football Association Board), the FA would like to reiterate our strong desire to see goal-line technology introduced as soon as possible."

    In short, the FA were saying they could do nothing about it without FIFA's permission.

    A misapprehension has formed around some of the things that the FA can and cannot do without FIFA's permission.

    For example, they appear to imply that they cannot act retrospectively if the referee says he saw an incident. This, of course, goes to the root of the referee's authority. But let us be clear: we are not talking about routinely re-refereeing a match.

    Referees make mistakes. That is part and parcel of the game. But what we need here is consistency.

    For example, a player commits a dangerous tackle on another, e.g. a two-footed studs up tackle. The referee gives a yellow card, but is then suspended on review for having made a mistake. But the FA never then changes the yellow to a retrospective red.

    So, a player could have his career ended and the referee has a one-match suspension for only showing a yellow, but the culprit suffers no further punishment.

    The truth is that there is nothing to prevent the FA dishing out further punishment on the grounds of 'unsporting behaviour'.

    Law 12

    FIFA's Law 12 covers fouls and misconduct. Included within this is what FIFA calls 'unsporting behaviour.' The latter can be punished during the game and also retrospectively by the governing authority.

    One of the listed definitions of 'unsporting behaviour' is:

    "If a player acts in a manner which shows a lack of respect for the game." And you will often see the FA charge a player, manager or club for 'bringing the game into disrepute.'

    In the following slides, we shall consider what occurrences in football need to be stamped out, through citing some of the worst examples. Finally, we shall propose what the FA can do about it without falling foul of FIFA.

    The FA prides itself on leading the footballing world in trying to rid the game of racism and racial abuse, for example. The FA has not covered itself in glory recently in matters such as the cost of Wembley stadium. 

    In England, we only really care about the English game, club football and the Premier League. Beyond that, matters only really count when it concerns our national team being hard done by, such as 'the hand of God' and Frank Lampard's phantom 'goal' in the World Cup.

    Hawkeye has had the technology for sorting out whether a ball has crossed the line for years now. It is used in tennis and cricket routinely. In addition, both rugby union and rugby league use the action replay to decide, "can I award a try?"

    Thanks to Sepp Blatter, football in general and FIFA in particular have become a joke across the sporting world.

    Other sports fans ridicule diving and cheating in football. The use of goal-line technology has apparently been held up so that a German company has the time to develop the technology that Hawkeye has already proven and is widely accepted in sport. 

    Apart from anything else, 'photo-finish' technology has been used for most of my lifetime to determine who has won horse races and athletics.

    A Different Approach

    Premier League soccer is a billion pound industry. Manchester United alone get almost 1.5 million people through the turnstiles in a season. 

    QPR could be relegated by one point or even on goal difference, and you can bet they will refer to the goal on Saturday that should have been given. In that event, it would be a £20 million goal that could have been given for the sake of thousands of pounds of technology in 20 football stadiums.

    The truth of the matter is that, to stamp out diving and other forms of cheating and to make the game as fair as possible, the FA and clubs must find another approach that stops the growing ridicule and unfairness.

    In short, it's time for some lateral thinking.

Goal-Line Technology: Bolton 2 QPR 1

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    Apart from the obvious, there are other farcical elements to this dreadful decision.

    The Referee's Assistant was lip-read as saying he couldn't see because there were players in the way. 

    First, there is only one, who is standing on the post. We can see from the clip the assistant's view. The truth of the matter is that, assuming he's not cheating, he must have been asleep. If he says it all happened too quickly, he shouldn't be doing the job.

    What is of more concern is that, apart from Clint Hill, the 'goal' scorer, a whole host of other players on both sides saw that ball cross the line.

    And who saw it most clearly? The goalkeeper of course, who can see the white post to the left of the ball as he saves it.

    We shall return to dishonesty.

Roy Carroll: Manchester United vs Tottenham 2004/5

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    This cameo took place in the match between Manchester United and Tottenham in January 2005.

    As a Manchester United supporter, I can truly say that I have never ceased to be embarrassed by this monumental error—not just the goalkeeping!

    Again the linesman said he couldn't be sure the ball had crossed the line. You can't blame him for not being up with the play, because it was a shot from the halfway line, but 75,000 people knew it had crossed the line. Either the linesman was asleep or he bottled it.

    One thing that this incident has in common with Saturday's QPR goal is that in both cases, the goalkeeper looked to the assistant immediately afterwards to see what they had signalled.

    Guilty M'Lud. Just look at Roy Carroll's face...

Frank Lampard; England vs Germany; World Cup 2010

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    This one wasn't as clear cut as Roy Carroll's howler, but look very carefully at the goalkeeper as he collects the ball. He is looking directly at the ball as it bounces behind the line and collects it from behind.

    Once again, the officials didn't see it. It could have had a transformational effect on the result and England's World Cup prospects.

    Just start to consider the key role of goalkeepers in these events...

2009 and Ghost Goals

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    2009 was a great year for refereeing gaffes.

    In the above match, the ball was nowhere near going in then net, so how the referee and his assistant could give a goal was truly astonishing. Nobody seemed to know what was going on.

    But in the same year, Crystal Palace had a perfectly good goal chalked off that not only crossed the line but hit the stanchion at the back of the goal and came out again.

    In all these cases except the Roy Carroll blunder, the main culprit would appear to be the referee's assistant. It is one thing to miss a foul or a handball, given the pace the game is played at, but to miss the ball going all the way in and out again is a monstrous blunder.

    So how can we change this if FIFA won't move?

    The common factor in all these cases is, in fact, the goalkeeper. In every single case, the keeper was in an excellent position to see what has happened. If they don't know where they are in relation to the goal and the line, they simply shouldn't be wearing the gloves.

    So, by not owning up, the keeper is, to put it bluntly, cheating. And so, for that matter, are many of their defensive colleagues who also didn't own up.

    If FIFA won't move forward on goal-line technology, there is a simple solution. Charge the goalkeeper with unsporting behaviour and ban them retrospectively. That would sort it out.

    Of course the keeper would be entitled to contest the charge, on the grounds that they claimed they didn't see the ball cross the line. If the video evidence shows clearly to the contrary, then increase the ban under the 'frivolous appeals' provision.

Diving and Cheating: Rivaldo World Cup 2002

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    This is one of the most blatant and farcical pieces of cheating ever in the history of the game. 

    Rivaldo came to the 2002 World Cup with a reputation as one of the finest players in the world. He left it in disgrace.

    The ball was kicked at him and hit him in the knees, but he fell down clutching his face. The player was sent off, but in a precedent by FIFA, Rivaldo was charged with bringing the game into disrepute and hit with a heavy fine and a ban.

    FIFA also said they wanted to stamp out cheating and 'simulation.' Did this happen? No way. It's prevalent in the Premier League and often influences the outcome of a match, and sometimes a season.

Diving: Gareth Bale

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    Luckily this blatant dive didn't influence the outcome.

    Gareth Bale has a growing reputation for diving that he will struggle to live down. As with Nani at Manchester United, he will end up simply not getting legitimate decisions if he continues and his reputation grows.

    The thing is, Bale and anyone else who does it knows when they do it. A referee has to be brave to book the player for simulation and could look stupid after the event.

    Once again, this is blatant unsporting behaviour and clearly 'brings the game into disrepute.' The FA only needs to have the courage to ban a few players retrospectively and the practice would stop.

    And let's be clear: when a player is diving, often his manager knows it as well. How many admit it or especially come out and condemn it?

    So it's time for players and managers to come clean and boot the cheating out of the game. If they won't do it, the FA should give them a helping hand.

    How could Owen Coyle feel proud of getting a win against QPR on Saturday? What would he be saying if the boot was on the other foot?

    The sooner football starts regulating itself, the better. Whether it's Kenny Dalglish hitting Luis Suarez with a hefty fine for being convicted of racism or Harry Redknapp, Sir Alex or whoever.

    Let's get some honesty and decency back into the game and once again have England leading the world in fair play.

    Some might call that naive, but in doing so they are actively condoning cheating. At the end of the day, it is the ticket-buying punter who gets hurt most if the game disintegrates into farce.

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