Clattenburg v. Chelsea proves point: League are targeting diving

Chelsea’s incredible complaint that a Select Official racially abused their players will now overshadow what was an all around horribly refereed match by Mark Clattenburg. A match which saw several red-card fouls go unpunished, two cards given for diving, and an offside goal allowed to stand. And anyone who is surprised that Clattenburg is at the center of controversy can not have been watching football for long.

Clattenburg has a long and storied history of getting calls wrong. Not just small calls, big calls. There was the infamous Nani goal, where Tottenham’s keeper Gomes placed the ball on the ground thinking that the referee had called an obvious handball as Nani very clearly reached out and handled the ball to stop play. Clattenburg did not call the handball, he played advantage to the Tottenham keeper. And so when Gomes put the ball on the ground, Nani scored. And Clattenburg was seen shrugging his shoulders as if to say “what do you want me to do about it?”

There was Adebayor’s incredible stamp on Robin van Persie. From literally yards away, and looking directly at the action, Mark Clattenburg did not see this foul.

Then there was the bizarre penalty awarded to Chelsea, against Fulham. Danny Murphy appeared to have lunged, two-footed, and Clattenburg pointed to the spot. After the match, however, it was revealed that Murphy spoke with Clattenburg and the referee assured him that the penalty was for an infringement by a different player. Replays showed no fouls.

Or how about yet another incident between Tottenham and Man U which involved Mark Clattenburg? Pedro Mendes hit a shot from the center circle which bounced off United’s keeper, Roy Carroll, and went so far over the line that the keeper just barely kept it from rippling the net. Apparently neither Clattenburg, nor his assistants, saw the goal.

I could go on but I will spare you, the point is that you could watch any match refereed by Mark Clattenburg and find 2-3 incidents in which a player should have been booked or even sent off but which Clattenburg either doesn’t see the foul or doesn’t think it’s a foul. And the Chelsea v. Man U match for which he is now coming under fire is no different from any previous.

In the first half, there were several moments I felt Clattenburg was too permissive, but the announcers applauded for “letting play go on”. The first was a high boot by Rio Ferdinand, one of his now patented “kung-fu kicks” where he goes for the ball studs-up, at head height. No call. Torres returns the favor and kicks Tom Cleverly with a high boot. This prompts Clattenburg to get out a yellow for what could have easily been a red.

The second was a series of fouls involving Wayne Rooney. Rooney had been doing his level best to intimidate everyone on the pitch for 10 minutes or so and Clattenburg was doing his best to let him. Ramires gets angry and tackles Rooney from behind, Clattenburg calls the foul. But Man U right-back, Rafael, doesn’t stop and absolutely clatters Ramires from behind in what looks a lot like retaliation for the foul on Rooney. Clattenburg does nothing.

In the second half, with both teams feeling like the referee is treating them unfairly, Clattenburg clamps down. Dishing out two red cards to Chelsea and awarding an offside goal to Man U. But the moment that should give everyone pause is the second yellow and subsequent red card for Torres’ obvious dive.

There is no doubt that Torres dives. Yes, there is contact, but even if I concede there’s a foul I am a firm believer that you can have both a foul and a dive. Watch the gif again, Torres is slightly clipped on his right foot and takes a step with his left foot. Then he clearly decides not to put his right foot down and raises his left leg, thus falling to the ground. As a defender, I’ll admit that looks like a foul by Evans, lord knows he does use the universal sign of guilt when he raises both hands as if to say “I know you think you saw contact but that wasn’t me!” But there is also no debate in my mind that Torres simulates more contact than actually happened in order to get a call.

But what’s interesting here is that if Mark Clattenburg is calling dives then clearly the Premier League has decided to take a reactionary stance against diving this season. For example, in all 380 Premier League matches in 2011-2012, referees gave 20 yellow cards for “diving”. The season prior, nine. The season before that, when the Daily Mail did their witch hunt against foreign divers, there were 23 cards for diving. And so far, in just 89 matches there have already been 10 yellow cards for diving. Four against Chelsea.

Just to put that into perspective, if the trend continues (and it almost certainly will not) there will be 42 yellow cards for diving this season. That’s an incredible tally for a league which steadfastly refuses to give yellow cards* and who hold up referees like Mark Clattenburg as one of their very best precisely because he doesn’t call fouls or give yellow cards.

Should the League target diving? Is this really the biggest problem in the Premier League? And, the elephant in the room, how on earth can the match officials be expected to call diving correctly without the benefit of the same video replay that you and I get to see over and over and over?

My answers are no, no, and they can’t. This is just the League papering over the cracks in a broken refereeing system which treats a studs up challenge to Cleverly’s chest equal to an attempt to con the official into giving a foul.


*Did you know that Barcelona already have 16 yellow cards in La Liga (lowest in the league)? Arsenal have 7 (second lowest the the EPL).


14 thoughts on “Clattenburg v. Chelsea proves point: League are targeting diving

  1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1D

    Strange but true – .ManU’s and Arsenal’s goals at the weekend were fine, no offside!!

    No one, least of all managers and coaches know the offside laws properly. The following explains why ManU’s and Arsenal’s goals were fine.
    From Laws of the Game (see Interpretations and Guidance for Referees, Laws 2008/2009): “Any defending player leaving the field of play for any reason without the referee’s permission shall be construed to be on his own goal line or touch line for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage of play. If the player leaves the field of play deliberately, he must be cautioned when the ball is next out of play.” So there was an invisible defender on the goal line.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Gunman

      Well Arsenal’s goal wasnt Offside but United’s was … Offside rule states – ‘The man receiving the ball must have at least 2 players from the opposing team in front of him when the pass is made’ . Now I think chicharito was ahead of goalkeeper too in which case even if you count the invisible defender, he was still Offside.

  2. +8 Vote -1 Vote +1Masterba...ker

    I dunno about calling Torres’s fall a dive… He didn’t exactly fight to stay on his feet, but is that the new standard by which to judge whether or not a player was diving? He is clearly clipped (studs on the shin incidentally – a yellow at minimum for Evans) and it’s the foul that brought him down.

    You want to erase diving from the game you have to retroactively review game footage and harshly punish divers and simulators with multiple game bans on an escalating sentencing formula so that serial divers find themselves out for 7-8 games at a time. That will do more for ending diving than expecting weak referees like Clattenburg to make the correct call in the heat of the moment.

    All said though, Man U beating Chelsea was the best thing for the league in terms of keeping the title in play, bringing Chelsea back down to earth and helping SAF get to #20. I’m buying the conspiracy.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

      It’s true – clearly a yellow on the field doesn’t cut it. If nothing, this incident highlights that. Either video evidence, or retrospective banning are needed, if they are serious about diving.

      Also, a clear set of rules about what is a dive, what isn’t a dive, what is a foul, what isn’t a foul.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        it’s impossible to ascertain intent when it comes to diving. Torres was clearly clipped while running at full pace. he undoubtedly embellished, grasped his knee, winced in pain, etc. but it’s not possible to state that a heavy athlete, running quickly, tapped by a front-facing opponent, could have stayed on his feet even if he had wanted to (and he didn’t). the NBA has involved itself this year, and it will be instructive to see how they divine “intent” vis a vis “flopping”, which is now a retrospectively punishable offence. it makes all Miami games necessary viewing, as the rule was basically instituted because of D Wade! Anyway, i think it is a good thing refs are being more punitive when it comes to diving on the pitch, and even coming off as inconsistent is not a bad thing. it plants a seed in the players’ minds: “the refs are crazy about punishing divers this year” just like Gorbachev felt about Reagan in the 80s after he opined that “we could win a nuclear war with the Soviets.” “Holy sheeet, these mofos are crazy, better not eff with them…” which benefits the game.

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1pat

        I dont have a problem with referees clamping down on diving, its just they are inconsistent to the point (in all aspects) that you just dont know what you are going to get. I think Tim is correct in alluding to the point that no issue regarding foul play (be it diving, studs up tackles, attempts to injure players, ball crossing the line, offsides) can be solved satisfactorily (at least for my satisfaction) with the current system. This includes the referees themselves and the (lack) of tools and procedures available to support them. This falls at the feet of the FA which are ultimately responsible for the running of the game, there just seems no desire to get into the 21st century – other sports have shown that you can use technology successfully. It just seems so ridiculous that millions of viewers can get a replay from all sorts of angles and have a chance to make a half decent call on what happened in a particular incident.

  3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Metalhead

    Wow! Chelsea accusing Mark Clattenburg for making racist comments. The irony of it all!!! I wonder what he said. If “fucking black cunt” is not a racist comment as per Chelsea’s judging books then this must have been something of epic proportions. If it isn’t something of epic proportions and something as trivial as “fucking black cunt” (again going by Chelsea’s standards) then they should be fined heavily for showing double standards.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Metalhead

    Coming to the diving topic, I don’t think a player should be shown a card for diving. Of course, the foul must count if the referee thinks the player dove. Subsequently, what the FA must do is review these diving incidents after the match and fine/ban the player.

    Having said that, implementing video technology would simplify things so much!!! But like they say common sense isn’t all that common!!

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

    Honestly, I don’t really care as long as it’s not harming Arsenal. Although it does seems like Torres booking subconsciously harm Arsenal, I always hope that the resulting red card prompt Chelsea players into a spite of rage and tackles every Man Utd players and bringing niggles and injuries to their important players, which end up benefiting Arsenal. Sadly, it didn’t happen.

    These issues rightly could only be improve if technology been used. But that will not be in the near time, so the best that it could do is bring fear to the serial divers in the league. I hope that those fear would transcend into Man Utd players when they meet us, but Tim told us that Dean is not the go to guy for awarding divers with yellow cards or at least not in the penalty box. That means that the divers of Man Utd will have free reign to dives, which will be bad for us.

    Lastly, I think the leniency of the referee is the trademark of the English league. It encourages aggression of players, which if it is positive, could bring someone like Wilshere, who combine flair with grit. It will be the character of the English teams, just like Spain with their emphasis of technical flair and passing. The problem is too many player have more grit than flair and if there is no emphasis on technical in training, unlike in Arsenal, it would only be harmful.

  6. Vote -1 Vote +11steved1

    My answers are Yes No and they can’t. I say yes because it’s so so easy to spot a dive (in my opinion) it should be nipped in the bud and now is an opportunity. I read this post with your blog from the other day fresh in my mind, Torres was clipped right? but he dived so…foul Chelsea followed up with a yellow to Torres for “simufuckinglation”. I’d love to know whether Clatterwhatsisface saw the contact.

  7. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Well, it it abundantly clear that the standard of match officiating at the elite, professional level of football is woefully inadequate. What’s more, it’s depressingly clear that the governing bodies, starting from the very top with FIFA, really couldn’t care any less. Whether the issue is diving, reckless, dangerous tackles, blown offsides, racism, FIFA simply ignores the issues. One might even infer that given known match fixing in multiple, european leagues including one of the glamour leagues, Serie A, that there are hidden incentives not to improve the standard of refereeing. As things currently stand, I hold little hope this will change.

    However, I do hold some hope for the not too distant future. There are potentially billions of dollars, euros, pounds of untapped potential in the US market. FIFA, the BPL, La Liga and all the major stakeholders in the game want a piece of that potential windfall. US sports fans have a pretty strong desire to “get the calls right” and pretty much demanded that major sports in America adopt some form of video technology to improve officiating. As these fans migrate to soccer, they’ll want that same technology applied to it. I’ve managed to make a few of my friends see the light and they inevitably are incredulous at the number of blown calls and the refusal to use video replay to improve match officiating.

    NBC just bought the television rights for the BPL over the next three years for $250 million, a three fold increase over Fox’s previous $80 million, three year deal. It’s still small beans as the British rights sold for 3 billion pounds over three years but if the US audience keeps growing at the same rate, it could eclipse the total viewership in Britain in ten or fifteen years. Certainly if more US viewers begin watching soccer, the influence of that audience may see FIFA change its stance on the use of video review. It may even come to a point that growth in the US market is stifled by the lack of such technology, which might force that change.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Diving in football is systemic. It’s part of playing football. It’s just what players do, like close contact grabbing and pulling and shoving when fighting for the ball. Eradicating or at least reducing diving to a less egregious amount will require the will to the change the culture of this sport. It hope it comes one day, but it will take years.

    Curious: to those of you who watch the MLS in North America – is diving the same, less or greater?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      You’re correct, and like you, I feel that if the status quo is maintained, there’s little reason to believe that that culture will change. It’ll be up to new stakeholders in the game (billions of dollars) to affect change.

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1PLT

    I agree that the Premier League should target divers. But it’s a very difficult one to get right. As shown in the Chelsea vs Man U game, Torres appeared to get ‘fouled’ by Evans, but made the most of it in a bid to perhaps try and get Evans booked, or worse sent off (to even the game up). I think yellow cards need to be shown, and although the Torres sending off was perhaps a little harsh on Chelsea, examples like this will no doubt play on the minds of the players in the future and help to ensure that diving becomes a thing of the past.

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