Simulation solved simply with video replay

“What punishment should Santi Cazorla receive for diving?” Eric Wynalda shifted his glasses and fixed his eyes on the man asking the question before coolly and calmly saying “eight games, the same as Möller.”

The Möller in question is Andreas Möller, the first player to ever be banned retroactively for a dive. It was 1995 and simulation was making the rounds as the disease du jour plaguing football. Möller was playing for Dortmund when a defender jumped to close space and then realized he might touch Möller, so he pulled out of the challenge. Möller, however, had already committed himself and in anticipation of the contact dramatically flew into the air as if his legs had been taken. A penalty was awarded by the referee, having been thoroughly conned.

Since Möller’s ban there have been other attempts to retroactively ban players for diving. UEFA tried to ban Eduardo for a dive against Celtic, but when Arsenal fought the ban, UEFA’s own referee watched the video replay, saw all the same angles of the dive as we pundits saw and said that he would have awarded the penalty anyway. The case was dropped, though the damage had been done and Eduardo’s football career in England would end at the close of that season.

Every year since I’ve been following football, pundits and fans have grown increasingly vociferous about diving. That’s why Eric Wynalda’s claim that Santi Cazorla should be banned for eight games was delivered so calmly. We’ve gotten to the point in this debate where a dive to win a penalty is now the moral equivalent to racially abusing a fellow professional.

That’s because in the last few years the conversation about diving has gone from irate to outright religious fervor. The acolytes of the retroactive ban religion started out by suggesting that yellow cards should be given for dives. The Premier League actually did start giving cards for diving at a massively increased rate. But seeing that that wasn’t stopping the players from trying to gain an advantage, the true believers then suggested that the only way to stop them was to ban retroactively for a game, and now we have Wynalda suggesting that not just one game would do but eight.

On the other side of the debate are people who fervently believe that any contact, any at all, is good enough reason to go down. These people felt buoyed by the Eduardo decision and have since spent countless hours on the internet arguing over whether the Zapruder film shows that a defender’s toe nicked a shin pad. You can see that Reid touched Cazorla, I’ve heard “because Reid’s foot moves, watch his foot, the key is in the foot. There was contact.” If there was any contact, they believe, then it’s perfectly acceptable for the offensive player to throw both legs up in the air and fall to the ground, grasping his ankle and feigning injury.

Critically, however, no one can agree on what constitutes a dive. Go ahead and try to form a consensus on the definition of a dive, you might be able to get two or three people to agree for a few weeks but there will almost certainly be an incident where disagreement will arise.

Most people will agree that when there’s no contact and a player goes down to win a penalty that it’s a dive. But what about when there is contact and the player goes down? For me there is no moral difference between a player feeling contact and pretending to be fouled and a player anticipating contact and pretending to be fouled. Both are cheating because they are both trying to con the referee into making a decision So how can one be worse than the other? Because there was no contact? Because there was slight contact?

Teams like Stoke, who live and die by set plays, dive all the time but no one ever says anything about it because so many people are bamboozled by this foolish notion that any contact at all means that any subsequent simulation is not actually simulation. In the games I’ve watched, the majority of Stoke’s set plays are generated by one of their midfielders feeling some kind of contact when they are in the opposition half and going down easily. Watch any Stoke game and tell me that you don’t think that at least one player “made a meal of that contact.” Simulation happens all the time in the Premier League and probably always has happened.

The ubiquity of this form of cheating is why I’m having a hard time getting up the gumption to pour out a spittle-flecked invective. You can be morally outraged about simulation if you like, but for me, it’s just one of many ways that teams cheat and just one of many things that are wrong with football. It’s also one of the many problems with football that could be solved simply by allowing officials to use video replay live in games. Offsides decisions, studs-up x-rated challenges, shirt pulling in the box on set plays, blocking off the keeper, dives, fouls that should have been awarded a penalty, all could be fixed simply and efficiently by allowing referees the benefit of using the same technology that the people who argue over diving use for months after.

We don’t need 8 game bans, we don’t need arguing for hours over whether there was a second shooter, and we don’t need a religious war on diving: we need referees to use video replay on all penalty decisions and for managers to be allowed too “challenge” one call per game. Do that and you’ll not only clean up the problem of simulation, but you’ll also clean up a number of other problems.

And what about that last bit about fouls that should have been awarded a penalty? As much as people complain about the occasional dive to win a penalty there are far more penalties that go un-awarded after a foul than the other way round. Which one is the bigger problem then?

Right, diving. I forgot.


28 thoughts on “Simulation solved simply with video replay

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ed

    Even when there is absolutely no contact, surely sometimes the opponent is impeding you? What we know for sure is that Reid did not get the ball. He swung his leg at Cazorla and this may have put him off balance. Should Cazorla not then dive to show the referee that he lost the ball unfairly?

    I agree that referees need video playback during the game, but would they even get the decision right? I might still have given the penalty.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Video replay will be on the goal line at the World Club Championships and that’s a start down the road bringing football into the world of getting the decision right.
    Video replay done for PK decisions with transparency, will get rid of blaming poor decisions on “that’s football’.

  3. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Mike

    Video replay will start you down the slippery slope of stopping game play – then all the club owners (especially the American club owners who have already seen it done with hockey) will want to run adverts during the stopped play. Then (again like we have seen with hockey) once they see that revenue they’re going to want more and they’ll start wanting more adverts run and we’ll end up with stoppages during the game that are simply for adverts (again, I know< like they have in NHL hockey) it ruins the game completely. Retrospective 2 game bans that cannot be argued and are decided by a rotating panel of judges would clear up the issue.

    Here's my suggestion:

    - You have a pool of 20 judges
    - for every instance you choose 4 or 5 of those judges
    - they watch every video replay and decide if ti was a dive
    - if it was automatic 2 game ban – no appeal

    1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

      The game is already stopped when the PK gets awarded and the aggrieved team stamps its feet in protest, so what’s another minute to ‘go under the hood’ for a review.

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        I don’t see the problem. We are watching a live feed and have more benefit of a bird’s eye view than the ref.

        A fifth official can be deployed to watch the game LIVE and use his own cognition in judging whether the situation is deemed necessary for him to give his input.

        Won’t slow the game at all. Big Fallacy purported mainly by older men and luddites no offense.

  4. -3 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Today we had Mancini angrily gesticulating at Tevez for keeping his feet while being mauled in the box. Tevez might have justifiably earned a PK. Man City lose. We won with an undeserved PK. Let’s be real about the British media hand wringing brigade, at season’s end, they will only focus on where teams finished and not on how they got there.

    Speaking of that MC-MU game, those teams showed everything that our team does not do and why we have NO shot to overtake either team. Take Clichy for example, he’s now better than any of the FBs we have in that position. Aguero was making run after run off the ball and then he was getting through passes he controlled for attacking threats in the box, amazing. Both teams an absolute class above us in making attacking plays that have real menace to score,

    1. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      The four forwards than ManShitty threw out there–Balotelli, Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko–probably cost more in transfer fees and make more in wages than our entire first choice eleven. I wouldn’t be surprised if their second choice left back, Kolorav, makes more than Gibbs and Santos combined. It shouldn’t surprise that their attacking play shows more cutting edge, especially since they’ve had more time to gel. We can only compete by making our collective teamwork better. That’s up to Wenger and the players. Unfortunately, so far this season, our collective play has been less than the sum of its parts.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

        Why is our collective play less than the sum of its parts? Maybe we miss training in hermetically sealed Austria instead of building the commercial brand in Southeast Asia.

    2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

      Well actually I saw at least one gervinho-esque ‘controlled’ ball by Akuero. Ballotelli is a time bomb. Nasri was shit most of the game. Clichy’s was dispossessed and that lead to rvp’s free kick, deflected by Nasri on a 3 men wall. 3 men at that distance! That’s something that nor even Arsenal would do.

  5. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I enjoyed watching Everton beat Spurs today. Incredible finish.

    About the diving: The “dirty foreigner” stigma is starting to change; somewhat refreshingly, it seems Young and Bale will have to live with the label. They must be the first inhabitants of Britain to be singled out as serial divers by the British media.

  6. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Actually, since Terry only got a four game ban, Wynalda obviously thinks diving is WORSE than racial abuse. As for the whole diving debate, I tire of it. FIFA and the FA could actually do something about all kinds of cheating and unsavory behavior and simply choose not too. In game and/or retrospective video review isn’t a panacea but it would help get more calls right. I’ve already opined that the governing bodies’ obstinate refusal to implement simple solutions to these problems implies there are other agendas in play that are not obvious to lesser minds like mine.

  7. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Steve of Chiang Mai

    Great read. The problem with video replay is when it isn’t conclusive. Take Bales dive against Arsenal last season. It was clear there was no contact – you could see daylight between the 2 players. I have heard commentator and pundit alike say their was obviously no contact – for me the evidence was inconclusive. Was the contact minimal – maybe – but in the end even that is subjective – was it enough to cause the player to lose balance? One thing we do no is Reid was conclusively beaten by a better player – there was no 50-50 challenge so does any contact still make it a foul?Is the defender still not cheating because he gives an attacker a whack across the shins putting him in 2 minds seeking to gain an advantage (Of course the foreign skillful player is the only one capable and devious enough to try and con the ref – the English good old boy defender would never try to cheat would they?)
    If it is Inconclusive – subjective – in the end it would come back to the ref’s subjective judgement call, In Australia the NRL (Rugby League) have a video referee who pour over video for every contentious issue. Some of the decisions are still so horrendously poor its hard to imagine they are watching the same game! Like many of the pundit calls, the decision is made by subjectively based preference rather than unbiased judgement, If there is no ability to say 100% objectively then what does the video gain you. Sure if its an offside and the line goes across the field instantly giving you an objective frame of reference. But in this case I have seen the video over and over and it is still subjective.
    If you can’t be sure after seeing it so many times then its hard to judge a referee like Clarke did who only sees it at full speed once. Do we then ban the manager for cheating…using the media to start a witch hunt against a player because his team lost? (Think Eduardo – should we also not ban the pundits and media – where does it end)
    But why stop at penalties…what about the striker who jumps and scores off a header by placing both hands on the shoulders of a defender effectively holding him down with the full weight of his body – clever but still cheating. Where does it end?

  8. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1dano328

    Eric Wynalda doesn’t warrant the respect of being heard. He isn’t qualified to commentate on the EPL to such a large audience. People outside the US have never seen him but his rants get spread through Twitter and people are asking “who the hell is this guy?”. For those that don’t know, he is a pundit on the Fox Soccer Channel in the states. He played a couple of years in Germany, USMNT, and MLS. Wynalda, Warren Barton, and Brian McBride do a studio show over here before the big matches. Most of us dont want an American studio show. NBC gets the rights to the EPL next year and hopefully that will be the end of Wyanalda’s punditry.

    He didn’t make this much noise last year when Ashley Young dove much more blatantly two weeks in a row. The Anti-Arsenal media bias is on both sides of the Atlantic.

  9. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cocqueface

    While I understand people wanting to get the call right. I don’t believe video replay is any sort of panacea. Replay in the NFL has made the game unwatchable for me. It leads to long stoppages and they still get the calls wrong. As someone posted above there’s still a level of subjectivity which, in the end, doesn’t alleviate controversy. It merely adds to it. I’d rather just deal with the bad decisions than have video replays.

  10. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Stewart

    Unfortunately diving is an excepted part of the game. It seems to me that whoever cheats the best gets the result. We all know Cazorla dived but he seems to be getting a lot more stick than when W.B.A ‘s Ridgewell did it to earn them a penalty v Sunderland. The manager did not moan then about the ref. !!!! Both players are cheats as are many others.I am amazed that none of these players get punished and how blinkered some fans are. I am getting sick and tired of everyone blaming the ref when they lose. Are the players that perfect that they do not make mistakes. The sooner they bring in the Rugby rule of not abusing the ref the better.if they book a player as soon as he talks back they would soon stop and the game would then flow, we would see more football as there would be no more time wasted and the refs would hopefully make better decisions as they are not being hounded all the time.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1TRoberts

      Just once – seriously, just once I would like to see a ref start throwing yellows to all who encircle him and howl about a call. Please, please, please make it happen… please give some ref the guts to do what is right.
      It gets so idiotic to watch all these grown men whine so damn much.

  11. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

    The worst dive of the game? That was by West Brom’s Markus Rosenberg, I believe, one of the most obvious you’ll ever see.
    This has not made the news, however, as we are only interested in the dive that was given as a penalty and thus impacted the game. But it makes me wonder – if retroactive punishment does come into effect, will it apply to the dives that are ignored by the ref? Will it apply to dives that are outside the box and are given, but don’t lead to penalties, a la Stoke?

  12. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1BayGooner

    Wynalda is an embarassment, and he hates Arsenal. So how valid is his view?

    Players dive because it works, pure and simple. Retrospective penalties won’t change that, unless the Fuck All wants to examine replayes of scores if not hundreds of potential simulations every week.

    And even if it were done, what would the standard be? It would have to be obvious and conclusive to change the call of the ref, not just some other person’s opinion. If it was inclonclusive, then it has to stand?

    And what is the real response? So Cazorla gets a three match ban? Does West Brom get a rematch, or have the goal disallowed so they at least don’t get the false goal added to their Goal Difference?

    Frankly, the only way you stop diving in a meaningful way is examine it right then and there, and add extra time at the end of the half in question. Because the ref has made the call, you leave it to the opposing manager to challenge, and you know the consequences for both teams after the examination — what I mean is if the player is determined to have dived, then he should get a yellow or get sent off. Right then and there. And if the challenge appears inconclusive, then the challenging team should have some kind of consequence, for example, the loss of a substitution. So challenges aren’t frivolous.

    By the way, have you ever been nicked on the outside of your knee? Just right, it can hurt like hell and numb you for a second. Maybe Santi was hurt and froze. After all, he was by Reid, and in on goal.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      The way Reid wielded his leg at Santi like a scythe of death, I’d jump away albeit I may not quite have embellished it as much in the Iberian manner.

      On the plus side, Santi wasn’t holding his face.


  13. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Patrick

    It seems to me that the solution to this is hiding in plain sight and we just have to figure out what to name it. Platini has two refs behind the goals. We should take one those and place them in front of a TV so they can see what the rest of the world is seeing. If they see a call was made incorrectly then they can alert the field ref via their headset. If they are unsure about a call then they just stay quiet. That is all. No timeouts. No challenges. No problem. What shall we call them. Passive video refs? As for the other ref from behind the goal. Give him the watch.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa


    Just because you have a title does not mean you should be speaking in the public forum about Arsenal Tom Fox because you embarrassed yourself with your ignorance.

    The most interesting thing for me in this article was the part about some players being resistant to conditioning training and just what are those implications to what we are seeing on the pitch. There was a time when Arsenal use to pour it on for the last 15″ when the opponent was too tired too move and win points. You see Podolski being subbed like clockwork at 70″. Why are we always taking off our offensive weapons and putting out players who are on the way out. Is it that conditioning thing the article mentions? I wonder?

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    I’ll take the decision on the dive thank you very much. We don’t half get much in our favour by way of penalties at home.

    Which all distracts from the game itself whereby I thought we applied ourselves much better than in recent games, pressing higher up collectively rather than the more passive and mechanical approach previously.

    Of particular note, our midfield seems to click better deployed further up and Ramsey (sorry), Jack had an excellent game for us which made a massive difference to our recent stale dynamics.

    So back up to 7th from 10th in the blink of an eye. Next two games are crucial and if we apply ourselves as against WBA, should bring us the full 6 taking us above at very least one or two of the pretenders above us (Spuds, WBA most likely) and within sight of Chelsea(3rd)

    Plenty to play for yet. Those with the defeatist fatalistic view might want to postpone their pronouncements at very least till end of December.

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1Terry

    Unfortunately we are all being conned by the ill informed media which keeps on about “contact” being made or not, to validate a foul.
    With due respect Yank, if you acquaint yourself with the FIFA’s Laws of the Game, Rule 12, you will see a player can be fouled, without actually being kicked.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

      You’re right. I’ve seen straight reds given for clear reckless intent to foul without contact being made. The old swing and a miss elbow or kick out that if they did connect would cause physical damage.

Comments are closed.