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Is diving now the order of the day?

I was driving home the other day and I was listening to a sports programme on the car radio. The whole discussion centred around the now regular occurrence of players diving and cheating in soccer.

The problem is so acute that finally, it would appear, the powers-that-be in football are waking up and doing something about it.

They are venturing to grasp this most unsavoury side of our game, which is bringing the whole football fraternity into disrepute.

So acute is this problem that it seems some players, and it has to be argued with the support of their coaches and managers, are not getting the message.

Some are still engaging in this most unsavoury practice,

Two examples from this last week’s Premier League games, involving very high profile players and teams.

The first involved Manchester United v Swansea, in which up-and-coming Man U player Marcus Rashford was fouled and a penalty was awarded. This young man burst onto the scene not long ago and won wide praise for his prowess and ability to terrorise defenders.

The not-so-good side of him is that he, like many of his fellow professionals, also appears to do whatever it takes to win that all important free kick/penalty kick for his team.

The second incident involved Tottenham Hotspurs Harry Kane against Arsenal in a very tense north London derby, also last week. Kane insists he was right to be awarded a penalty kick in which they beat their bitter rivals 2 – 0 in the last ever game at White Hart Lane.

Some commentators believe it was a debatable penalty following a challenge from the “Gunners” defender Gabriel.

What do the Laws of the Game say on penalties?

“A penalty kick is awarded if a player commits a direct free kick offence inside their own penalty area or off the field of play as part of play as outlined in Laws 12 and 13.

What is a direct free kick in terms of Laws 12 and 13?

“A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences against an opponent in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

  • Charges,
  • Jumps at,
  • Kicks or attempts to kick,
  • Pushes,
  • Strikes or attempts to strike (including head-butt),
  • Tackles or challenges,
  • Trips or attempts.

“If an offence involves contact it is penalised by a direct free kick or penalty kick.”

Now that’s the law, whether you like it or not and sometimes it leaves a lot to the interpretation of the man-in-the-middle, and he doesn’t always get it right.

We are told many times that football is a contact sport, so there might be a conflict there as to what constitutes contact.

There are other interpretations, which must also be taken into consideration and perhaps will be the subject of further blogs and debates.

In terms of Law 13 (Free Kicks) it states:

“Direct and indirect free kicks are awarded to the opposing team of a player guilty of an offence or infringement.”

Now there’s been an amendment to the penalty issue and I think it’s worth mentioning it here because it’s bound to surface soon and people will be confused.

It concerns a penalty being awarded where a player IS NOT fouled in the penalty area but the ref still awards a penalty kick.

The new interpretation says:

“If a player leaves the field of play as part of play and commits an offence against another player, play is restarted with a free kick taken on the boundary line nearest to where the offence occurred; for direct free kick offences a penalty kick is awarded if this is within the offender’s penalty area.”

Remember the ball has to be in play at the time of the incident

I think I’ll leave you to mull over this for a while and think long and hard about it.

Come back to me if you find it confusing and I’ll endeavour to explain further.

Suffice to say that players diving and cheating is a “cancer” in our game and needs to be stamped out. Refs have the power but they are not using it and so long as they don’t it will continue.

Happy whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter – dr_errol

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