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After Ashley Young’s dive, should simulation get a straight-red?

Sep 16, 2013, 6:33 AM EDT

Following several controversial incidents surrounding Ashely Young in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, the England international has been widely criticized for excessive simulation.

Midway through the first half against Palace, Young clearly dove to try and gain a penalty kick by flicking out his leg and kicking Crystal Palace midfielder Kaisho Dikgacoi before flopping to the ground. Referee John Moss didn’t hesitate in handing Young a yellow card for simulation and Young’s long-standing relationship with diving in the box had yet another exhibit to back it up.

And just minutes before half time Young and Dikgacoi were again involved in a clash, as the Palace man clumsily took down Young on what appeared to be the edge of the box. Young fell forward and despite the original contact being outside the box, Moss gave a penalty kick and sent Dikgacoi off as he was the last man.

(MORE: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace; Van Persie and Rooney defeat the Eagles)

Palace felt hard done by and rightly so. But the main storyline to come out of Old Trafford on Saturday was Young’s diving.

I was sat in the press lounge at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on Saturday watching the United game on television with a bunch of other journalists. Several of them, including myself, turned away in disgust as Young’s dive was replayed to the billions of television viewers across the world.

But this isn’t something we haven’t seen from the 28-year-old winger before.

When Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge of United he warned Young about his tendency to go down easily — watch the incident below against Aston Villa back in 2012 which was almost identical —  and now David Moyes has had to do the same following Saturday’s game.

Young’s actions are sure to divide opinion.

On one hand we have those who accept diving is part of the modern game and lambast anyone who criticizes a player for going down easily after minimal contact. Then on the other side of the coin we have those who deplore diving and see it as a disease eating away at the beautiful game.

Okay, here’s an example of my why I am with the latter school of thought. Personally, despite all of their beauty and poise on the ball, I have stopped watching Barcelona in the same fondness I once did. The constant diving, simulation and underhand tactics they deploy don’t sit well with me. I’m not saying Barca are the only team that does this, but they have one of the most talented squads in world soccer, ever, so why do top international players and teams feel the need to dive, cheat and con referees?

It’s all about that extra 1 percent advantage. If Young takes a tumble in the penalty box ten times, he will probably get a PK on two or three occasions. So he’s willing to take the risk of bring tarnished as a ‘diver’ and a ‘cheat’ as he has done, in order to help his team score goals and grab points.

How can we stop this epidemic from ruining the game we all love so much? Red cards.

A straight-red for any diving will certainly help to eradicate this despicable form of gamesmanship. You only have to look at the outlawing of the tackle from behind to see that it can work. A few years back there was suddenly a zero-tolerance policy on a dangerous tackle from behind, which saw red cards brandished readily but now that tackle is hardly seen in the modern game.

It has worked, people got the message. The same needs to happen with diving. It’s a drastic step but if players face getting sent off, just see how quick Young and others stop throwing themselves to the ground like a sack of potatoes every time a defender gets within two feet of them.

Needless to say, the simulation situation has got out of hand. Now it’s time for the officials and governing bodies to take a stance. Enough’s enough. Diving and cheating is not okay and quite frankly, I’m sick of it.

  1. ufficiopostale - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    I do agree with a zero-tollerance approach to diving, but putting the judgement in the hands of the referee is probably too much to ask of them. As viewers, we get to see slow motion replays to make our judgements while the refs only get one instance of real-time speed. Imagine how vilified a ref will get if he sends a player off for a dive when it really was a foul?

    There other methods to zero-tollerance. Perhaps FA’s and FIFA could review footage after games and hand out serious suspensions and/or doc points in the standings if simulation occurs.

    • midtec2005 - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      I agree, diving is too big a burden on the referee. Retroactive punishment is the best solution…

      • lekajunkrawdad - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        The risk/reward balance between diving and it’s punishment is weighted too heavily towards the potential reward. Sure a player will risk getting a meager yellow card 1/10th of his dives in order to gain a PK/goal 1/10th of the time. A yellow card for a striker is basically nothing, however a PK can mean everything in the game.

        Agreed that often the call is too large of a judgement for the referee to necessarily determine if it is a dive/simulation or legitimate foul in real time and that retro-active punishment is probably going to be more effective.

        I think however that it might be more effective to not only punish the player for these tactics, but also start punishing the team via forfeiture of points. If each time a player was shown to be diving on post-game video reviews cost their team three points, you can bet that the players would stop doing it and that manager would come down hard on any players that continued to do it. The practice (or the players) would be eradicated from the game in probably less than a year. I mean if this punishment was already in place, Ashley Young would have probably cost United the title and Suarez alone would have probably gotten Liverpool relegated. No manager is going to waste their time with that.

  2. dfstell - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    I agree with your sentiment because I hate all the flopping and diving. If people think all this falling down is just a normal part of the game, go watch a Sunday league game at your local park where you’ll see lots of normal people playing soccer and remarkably staying on their feet when touched by a defender.

    The big problem is that soccer is so ruled by all these binary events. There are so few goals from the run of play (or even set-pieces) that PKs are HUGE. Same thing with a red card…..a team goes down to 10-men and they’re lucky to get a draw.

    That’s part of the beauty of the game, honestly. But, it does lead to all these times when the ref won’t QUITE call a penalty because even though it was a foul/handball that would have been called at midfield, the ref deems it not to be worth a PK (and almost certain goal). Ditto with red cards. You can almost see refs keeping track where they call the third marginal handball because those three kinda “add up” to a single PK.

    I’d like to see soccer experiment with things like (a) PKs from greater distances, (b) PKs with a one-man wall, (c) PKs from an angle, (d) red-cards that don’t last for the whole game.

    Compare it to American football where they have two different grades of the facemask penalty. One is a 5-yard penalty and it is for incidental grabbing of the facemask. The other is a 15-yard personal foul, automatic first down and is awarded when the tackler uses the facemask to bring the player down.

    And, the real problem is the referees. They cause all of this by NEVER EVER awarding a PK for a foul where a player stays on his feet.

    • lekajunkrawdad - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      I totally agree with that last comment about refs not calling it unless the player goes down. Not all fouls result in a player going to ground, but refs seem to only call the ones that do when it’s inside the box. They are in a way conditioning the players to go to ground when they don’t have to.

      Also agree with at least looking at the possibility of changing the rules with what does and doesn’t warrant a PK or not. I read an article a while back that proposed things like indirect free kicks and things like that for unintentional handballs in the box when trying to block a cross or anything that wasn’t a clear goal scoring opportunity, or when a fouls is committed on a player at the edge of the box when he is moving away from goal, instead of the automatic game-changing PKs that they would earn now. It also proposed awarding PKs for some types of fouls that normally wouldn’t result in one under the current rules. Such as if the last defender illegally pulls back on a forward already past him on a breakaway towards goal with only the keeper to stop him even if it’s outside of the box. Didn’t agree with everything in the article, but it had a lot of good points. I’ll try and see if I can dig it up.

      And unfortunately the diving is even bleeding into the amateur game now. Just yesterday in my competitive men’s league (mostly former collegiate players) game a single player on the opposing team attempted to gain a PK via simulation no less than 3 times in the game. The ref correctly identified them as simulation, but failed to produce a card on any of these occasion. Near the end of the game when they actually earned a legitimate penalty, it was saved– I think ithat was karma punishing them for the diving. And this is becoming much less rare then it used to be.

  3. boscoesworld - Sep 16, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    The acting needs to be cleaned up in the sport world wide. Of course people truly get injured but when there is a little tap and a player goes down like they’ve been shot? Unfortunately it happens nearly 20 times per game when a player goes down from a soft foul and comes up begging. When it is so constant how are the officials supposed to judge what is real or not? Maybe cards for begging would help! Give a time punishment if say, a player is rolling around like he is dying and gets carted off then comes in 30 seconds later. How bout 3 minutes minimum. That hurts the team and maybe would be a deterrent. All this rolling around in agony is why soccer has a soft reputation.

  4. medic0nduty - Sep 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    I think before we start talking about red cards and retrospective action for diving that refs need to start consistently booking divers. In the few games I was able to catch last year before NBC got their deal in place, I saw numerous incidents of diving where the ref rightly didn’t call a foul but didn’t punish the diver. So firstly, before we start talking about red cards for diving, we need to make it as clear as possible that if you dive, you will be punished for doing so.

    That being said, retrospective action for diving is not a bad idea. Since officials often have to make penalty calls in a split second, very often they might not have the opportunity to make an informed decision in that split second. Retrospective action at least sends the message that if the ref doesn’t catch a diver then that there will still be people after the game that can hand out a punishment.

    I would also like to see something done about players faking injuries, a major part of simulation that the article doesn’t touch on. It’s one thing to fall over the penalty area at the slightest touch, but it’s another thing to fall on the ground, roll around grabbing your knee like you’ll never walk again, and then get up as if nothing happened when no foul is whistled. That is a key part of simulation that I would like to see punished more by officials.

  5. Joe Prince-Wright - Sep 16, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Not really sure how to start dissecting these wonderfully insightful and well-rounded arguments….

    But I do agree with the majority of you who suggest the ref making a decision is too difficult and that retrospective action should be brought in to punish divers.

    There is a lot of it going around though, so if we start handing out retrospective bans and fines then where do we draw the line?

    Nonetheless, I think it would be a great tool to help stamp out diving and cheating in soccer.

  6. olddirtygamer - Sep 16, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    I think that a straight yellow is good enough from the match referee because with it comes the reputation of being known to simulate. If the referees are much more consistent in giving the card when it happens and where ever it may happen on the pitch, the simulation and diving will stop. This should especially be done to those star players who are known to dive or go down easily as well.

    Another thing that could be done is using a replay official whose job it is to watch the game on closed circuit and report to the match official any shenanigans who may see during play that the match official misses. While play cannot be stopped, this information could then go into the official match report and any actions which need to be taken can then happen retroactively.

  7. mfmaxpower - Sep 16, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    I’m all for more severe punishments for simulation but I don’t think red cards are the way to go. It’s just too tough a call to make as it is, and if you add the pressure of red cards to the mix, either you’re going to end up with a lot of players wrongly ejected, or you’re going to have a lot of simulation going unpunished because refs are afraid of being wrong with such a huge call.

    Personally, I think retroactive banning is the way to go. I’m a Man Utd fan but I’m sick of seeing Ashley Young flop the way he does.

  8. NtrlDipMOtl - Sep 16, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    In full accord.i don’t see issuing a straight red versus retrospective action being completely sensible.what is/isn’t diving is far too subjective.being dependent on a ref to decipher what is/isn’t a dive is already asking a lot….bringing straight red cards into the mix is leaps and bounds beyond

  9. donjuego - Sep 16, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    Match referees watch their games over on video. Make all the match video available to them. If the referee determines that the video evidence conclusively shows that a player deceived, or attempted to deceive, the referee then the referee files a report to the league. The league then meets out HARSH punishment. Like 10 game suspensions. Lifetime for repeat offenders.

    Problem solved. Leaving it only to game time decisions will not work. Referees will find it difficult to eject players based on the tricky views during the game.

  10. dalecooperscoffee - Sep 16, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    Fifa/uefa could employ a similar system to the rugby league here in Australia. In the nrl high or dangerous tackles see players placed on reports which means off to the judiciary. There are different grades of offenses which carry certain suspension lengths and also carry over points for repeat offenders.
    Something like this could work where dives that contribute to penalties (which the ref misses) carry automatic bans, Other dives throughout the game which may not carry a suspension but the serial divers will accumulate points which once they reach a set amount carry an automatic ban of say one or two games. This would address both dives to win games, and address repeat offenders.

  11. tomjedrz - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:36 PM

    The referees can handle this all by themselves … they simply need to raise the bar considerably for whistling a foul involving a known diver.

    After the yellow for the obvious dive, Young should not have been awarded the later penalty. Once determined to be a diver, one should lose the benefit of any doubt. Once the pattern is figured out, diving will stop.

  12. nbcrollaround - Sep 21, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    Obviously no United fans commenting here.
    I will say Diving should not be punished.
    It also should not be rewarded.
    If a player goes down and the ref feels there is no foul, then play on.
    So I say no to the straight red.
    Match fixing, racism, and fan violence…and we are worried about Ashley Young.

  13. 76bean - Sep 22, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    I hate diving, but what would be considered diving? Would a striker who is pushed from behind, and goes down, possibly easily be considered? Or a runner lightly clipped, but goes down somewhat easily? Or just the players who are not touched but go down, or go down a step or two after contact?

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