First published on Footy Matters.
One thing is certain, there must never be a dull day working in Sepp Blatter’s office. If you’re not dealing with a press release that he himself has penned, then you are responding to one of Michel Platini’s crackpot ideas that he has forgotten to mention to you over brunch.
On this occasion, it is Sepp himself who has dropped the latest bombshell, claiming that FIFA should introduce an unofficial sin bin for players going down feigning injury to discourage it. The whole world has been trying to find a solution for diving, but is sin binning the answer? Let’s look at the options:
1. THE SIN-BIN
How does it work? Blatter’s suggestion is to allow referees to eject players from the field of play for a period of time if they are adjudged to have dived. Whether this would eventually end up being the case for all yellow card offences is unclear, but if it doesn’t, referees would require a third card to indicate that a player has been sin-binned for diving, not merely booked.
Pros: Clearly it would be a huge disincentive against diving, and would swing the risk-reward of simulation mostly in the other direction.
Cons: In rugby you can bin one out of fifteen players, whereas binning one in football is a greater percentage change, something dangerous when football laws are much more open to interpretation than rugby.
2. RETROSPECTIVE PUNISHMENTS, OR CITING
How does it work? Exactly as it says on the tin, or as happens again, in rugby. A citing commissioner reviews every game, and if they find an incident of simulation, they may decide to punish the player retrospectively.
Pros: The camera never lies.
Cons: Very few, but in rugby citing is only used for serious foul play, not incidents which affect the actual game or scoreline. Would the commissioner retrospectively wipe off goals and penalties? Surely not, but the logic is confusing.
3. LIVE VIDEO EVIDENCE
How does it work? It seems we learn constantly from rugby union, but again, the idea comes from the use of the television match official, TMO, whom the referees may now ask to look at almost anything which they aren’t quite sure about. If a referee suspects simulation, he would have to stop the clock and ask the fourth official to look at the replays. Would be the most logical solution and the one favoured by the FA.
Pros: As with before, the lens is rarely wrong, and the considered opinion of the fourth official, as opposed to the instantaneous one of an official will always be better. Would also allow diving to go instantly punished, i.e. penalties not awarded etc.
Cons: Football is a very fast-moving game, and the use of TV replays could slow the game down a substantial amount, ruining the spectacle. Referees would also feel obliged to use the TV at every opportunity, even if diving wasn’t involved, resulting in constant stoppages. Also undermines omnipotence of referees.
4. EXTRA ASSISTANT REFEREES
How does it work? UEFA President Michel Platini’s preferred option. The extra officials provide another angle for the referee to take advice from, on diving and other decisions.
Pros: Should improve penalty area refereeing on all fronts.
Cons: Doesn’t seem to have made a blind bit of difference to diving in the Champions League, and in the end may just provide another pair of eyes to confuse situations.
5. MANDATORY RED CARDS FOR SIMULATION
How does it work? I…I’m not going to spell this one out.
Pros: Unlikely to see anyone dive ever again as it has both real-time and long-term (bans) implications.
Cons: Very dangerous to allot so severe and instantaneous a punishment for an offence often so difficult to detect correctly in real-time. Which is, of course, the problem with the whole issue.