The World Cup is underway in Brazil with Croatia vs Brazil in the opening match. It was an enjoyable game but an incident during the game raised a few questions for me and my brother when Fred, Brazil’s striker ‘appeared’ to dive and ‘win’ a penalty. Bringing up talk of video referees to stamp diving out of the game, but is that the best way or should we embrace diving? Bare with me…
Much is being made of players diving to win penalties in the last few seasons with Yellow Cards introduced to try to stop diving, except players still dive and it’s obvious why…
“The Reward for Successfully Diving is Greater Than the Risk”
The reward for successfully diving (a penalty) is greater than the risk, a Yellow Card. It seems likely that something will be done about this as diving can have such a big impact on the outcome of games.
The most likely ‘solution’ at this point will be a video referee, with the captain or coach being allowed a certain number of ‘Challenges’ to the officials call. While this works well in Tennis as it builds anticipation and the crowd get into it too. The effect in Football could be different. It’s a much faster paced game and interruptions break the flow of the game.
So as an alternative, rather than trying to prevent diving as cheating, why not embrace it as a skill, as part of the game. But instead of issuing a Yellow Card if the official judges the player to have dived, instead they issue a Red Card. After all the reward for diving is far greater than the punishment, so why wouldn’t a player dive.
If instead you issue a Red Card, now the punishment befits the reward. Players will have to really feel they can fool the referee, and if he can, good on him, ‘ some great skill and guts, big risk, big reward. It adds drama and anticipation. The ref will blow his whistle but we won’t know which way he’ll give it.
He pauses deliberately for 3 seconds after blowing the whistle, it’s definitely a foul one way or the other, but which way will he give it. It also gives him time to think before awarding the penalty or Red Card and will make players think twice, they’d do everything they can to stay on their feet, while defenders will do all they can to not foul. Sometimes the ref will get it wrong, that’s part of the game, but this way it adds to the excitement. It can still effect the game so make it part of the game.
Of course they could still introduce video referees and issue the Red Card for diving but I’m not sure stopping the game is beneficial to the enjoyment. Because you know if video referees come into play for possible penalties, they’ll also come in for disallowed goals and offsides, again stopping play.
Instead, give the benefit to the attacker (for offsides), if the defenders are aware of this and a player appears offside but it’s not given, tough. Don’t play the offside trap, that’s the risk you take. You have to judge whether it’s beneficial to play that way with the risks involved.
Accept that there are mistakes and that people will look to gain an advantage, then embrace it as part of the game, teams will have to adjust their tactics accordingly, that’s the way it should be.
A team may lose a few points because the referee or linesman made a wrong call, that’s part of the game, better teams will get more chances to fool the ref, teams looking to beat the offside trap will occasionally get a decision go their way. There’s nothing stopping a team from trying to take advantage, so there’s nothing to complain about if your team doesn’t get these decisions, it just means you don’t try often enough, or you’re not in their third of the pitch enough to get those calls.
The game should be about fun and excitement, video refs kill a bit of that. The reward and punishment should be equal (Punishment = Risk a Red Card, Reward = Win a Penalty).