I cannot believe all the fuss and bother on the sports pages yesterday – football players diving? How shocking. Robert Pires of Arsenal taking a tired tumble in the box, and similar by Kevin Phillips for Southampton? And the point is? Non-footie fans look away now.
It was ever thus. Weren’t Franny Lee and Jurgen Klinsmann both known as the ‘sub’, not because he started the game on the bench, but for their diving antics? There may be some out there who recall a ‘pure’ game, played by gentlemen who would always set a fallible referee right, that they tripped, and it wasn’t the clumsy defender who tipped them over. Yeah, right.
The difference now is that any live match has 20+ cameras following the action, so while the ref has to rely on his eyesight to spot a foul, the viewers are treated to countless slo-mo replays of every incident. And I will hold my hand up here and say that there have been times when what I first thought was a foul or handball or an off-side against my beloved MU has been proved wrong by the cameras.
The depressing suggestion is that football goes the route of cricket and rugby league in having a fourth umpire to review video evidence. Are they mad? Holding up the game for minutes on end just will not work with footie. Of all sports, it relies on spontaneity and referees getting it wrong, which of course they do. That’s part of the fun, arguing afterwards whether it was or wasn’t a penalty, offside etc. It’s the old cliché (must find a new one!) that these things balance out over the season.
My own possible remedy is indeed to have a fourth official with access to video replays, but with no actual influence over the game at the time it is played. Their job would be to monitor fouls, diving et al and to award cautions as a result. The point being that players could get away with the above, plus shirt-tugging and the rest during the game, the result unaffected, but they wouldn’t know if they had been found out.
They could walk off the pitch without a yellow to their name, only to find they were banned for three, six, nine, or even more matches. Now that would make them behave! Here endeth the rantlet.