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Sensationalist Talk About Diving as a Cancer

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So diving is a cancer in football. The other thing that's cancerous is stupid sensationalist responses to diving. There are two counts of this: firstly there's the lacking perspective angle of the likes of Tony Pulis who thinks that a yellow card offence is worthy of a 3 match ban, then there's the 'blame the foreigners' angle of any old school "hoof it oop t' bloody pitch" punter. Both angles are deeply floored and their silliness dilutes any attempts that football organizations might be making to cure this cancer.

The former was most recently espoused by Tony Pulis, every 'purist's greatest enemy. Although I personally like football played in a more attractive way as a spectator, I have no qualms with Pulis' methods - they're effective, pragmatic, can be good to watch in a certain way and Stoke's style adds to the diversity and difficultly of the Premier League thus making the league a more interesting watch. It's when Pulis gets on his anti-purist rants and to an extent extols his own purism that he becomes frustrating - in the way that Wenger's 'pure' purism annoys many. Diving should be something that unites both sides because of general condemnation of it, but with Pulis and others it's a symptom of the foreign game as "poncy foreign players" become the depiction of the anti-Pulis. They are not, and diving is not - just ask Jermaine Pennant.

His calling for 3 match bans is utterly ridiculous. At the moment a dive is a yellow card offence and the last time I checked, yellow cards do not warrant suspensions. Could diving ever realistically be a red card offence? If you think that red card offences are usually matters of harmful or violent conduct - such as stamping on opposition players - then obviously diving isn't as it whereas diving is a form of cheating that only has repercussions within the game, violent tackling and conduct has repercussions on the physical well being of the opposition player. You get red cards for two yellow cards, so if a player gets two yellow cards, then they will be sent off, and that's already part of the game.

Red cards for being the last man making a goal preventing foul are more interesting. Like diving, a cynical last man foul is a form of cheating the opposition in respect to a goal. In my view there is a difficulty with the last man rule as it stands anyway, namely that if the cynical foul occurs in the penalty, the fouling player's team gets a double whammy of going a player down and probably a goal down - this tips the balance too far the other way and often ruins what would otherwise be interesting equal contests. However, the difficulty with this law is that if the attacker beats the offside trap and the goal preventing foul occurs 30 or 20 yards from goal, then the sending off might be a fairer leveller, but you're not supposed to have one law for in and one for outside the penalty box.

Diving too would face a similar problem should it become a red card offence because for it to be a legitimate red card offence, it would have to take place in the penalty area - a dive 30 yards out from goal can hardly be a red card offence. Even so, I believe a yellow card to be a fair punishment for diving and even if it would to become a red card offence, it could only ever be a one match ban in the same way as a two yellow card or a 'last man' foul red card is. Pulis, by calling for a three match ban, is calling for diving to be the same as violent conduct, and as already noted, there is a significant difference between the two. That Pulis claims came on the same weekend that his only players have been caught stamping on opposition players to no such media response, it seems that Pulis disproportionate response can at best be seen as a distraction mechanism.

Then there's the other cancerous diving discussion - the 'foreign players' bought it into the game one. Firstly there's the fact that this is irrelevant. It's not a defence of the malaise of diving within the English game to point out that its original cause was elsewhere. It's still wrong that English players dive and it is part of the English game now (only John Terry denies it) so whether it was twenty years ago or not is irrelevant. If anything, English players, individually, have less excuse as their diving cannot be accounted for by a defence of cultural habit. When Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young do their weekly plunges, or longer established stars Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard do so, they are doing so despite having been told by their coaches since they were kids, probably, that what they were doing was wrong. At least if diving is a thing that is encouraged abroad, the foreign players have the excuse that they are doing what is normal where they come from.

Either way the argument is irrelevant, diving is wrong wherever it occurs and English players are just as guilty now and probably always have been once "jumpers-for-goalposts" tinted glasses are removed. What can actually be done to solve the problem in the Premier League, and indeed all games? FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce believes some retrospective treatment should be made and perhaps this could be possible - just not to the extreme extent that Pulis is advocating. It is currently a yellow card, but as things stand the FA do not do retrospective yellow cards and this seems reasonable - it would be quite a workload! To make diving an exception to the no retrospective yellow card rule would have some difficulties in that there are various yellow card offences that people would want to be given the same treatment - dissent for example. However, the with red card offences, retrospective treatment is only given if the referee submits a reference to the incident in his post match report. It could be possible for referees to submit a reference to a penalty incident in which he feels cheated after game, and then for retrospective treatment to be given. However, this can only be given as a yellow card, because it would be unfair for a ban to be given - the player is equally guilty if caught as if when not caught.

There is also the added factor that incidents of diving are often not clear. Michael Owen recently noted how we went down easily after feeling contact in the area in two World Cups, but denied that this was diving. There is also the argument that a foul can be made without contact, because the falling player is trying to avoid the fouling contact. So even if retrospective action was bought in, there would still be grey areas, as referee Pierluigi Collina said at the same event as Owen. Either way, these more intricate discussions about how to cure the cancer of disease are more interesting and important than the sensationalist diatribes of the likes of Tony Pulis.