April 20, 2013

Five Points for more FAIRPLAY - Part 1: Simulation

Throughout the time that has passed since the implementation of this blog, we have perceived several developments and grievances in modern top-class football, which adversely affect the principle of fair play that is to be considered as the most desirable way how football should be played.  We, the administrators of the blogs Árbitro Internacional and The Third Team, are therefore going to present a five-point plan for more fair play during the next days and weeks, starting today with part I. focusing on simulation. 

I. Redefine and Combat Simulation

As the Laws of the Game define, simulation must be grasped as the "attempt to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled". According to Law 12, this sort of infringement must be cautioned with a yellow card. Simulation must be considered as a display of a lack of respect for the referee, opposing players and the game itself. For this reason, we strongly underline Pierluigi Collina's known statement on that issue having declared diving as cancer in football.  
In almost every football match, specially on the highest level in competitions like World Cups or UEFA Champions League, there are players who are guilty of exactly that, who fall either without contact or in an exaggerated manner, simulate injuries to waste time or compel the attention of the referee and other players by indirectly forcing them to stop play, even in situations that could have been promising for the opposing team. Referees face a more and more difficult task in detecting these infringements due to the immensely growing pace of matches at the highest level, but also due to the rapidly increasing skills with which these players execute their dives.

Besides preventive enlightenment, the only means to cope with this "cancer" is to "kill" it, to render it harmless and to protect the "patient", football, in a long term fashion. That requires a stricter and more consistent dealing with that on the pitch and off the pitch. The first step should be basically to enhance identifying clear dives as such by not just letting the play go on but by more frequently cautioning these offences with yellow cards. A paramount example of that is shown here. Some kind of behaviour that is typical of simulation may help match officials in its recognition, e.g. widely outstretched arms when falling in a vaulted, bent way, or the attempt to immediately establish eye-contact with the referee to make him clear "Hey, I was fouled!". Referees must be prepared that some decisions could go wrong or might appear as exaggerated though.

Wilmar Roldán issuing a yellow card for diving (c) Blick

Special attention should be paid to 1vs1 duels between strikers and goalkeepers. It is happening too often that strikers too easily gain penalty kicks by abusing the goalkeeper’s dilemma – on the one hand they must take the risk to cause a contact with the striker, on the other hand they often cannot escape a contact due to mere physical reasons. Even in remarkably relevant matches such as the World Cup qualifier between France and Spain, some strikers target at provoking, at seeking these contacts also by starting to “fall into the goalkeeper” (frequently described as “conning”) before they are touched by him at all. In such cases, the goalkeeper often is the victim and not the striker. A basic key to identify this sort of simulation is the temporal difference between the moment of the fall and the contact with the goalkeeper. Many players moreover tend to curve goalkeepers, slightly move away from the goal and make a contact with the ball shortly before a possible contact with him - in many cases, they would never have been able to reach this ball if they had not been "fouled" by the goalkeeper...
More courage and consistency are needed to caution these offenders also for this kind of simulation with yellow cards, although it might first and sometimes look like a wrong decision and naturally also criticized as such. 

So the Laws of the Game should be redefined in terms of simulation from our point of view. Thus, it could and should be redefined as the "cautionable attempt to deceive the referee by feigning injury, pretending to have been fouled by purposely seeking contact with opposing players, specially with goalkeepers." It must be clear, too, that this demand does not equate an entire amnesty for goalkeepers who obviously try to foul strikers e.g. to impede a goal.
While there are voices who propose red cards as the punishment for simulation, we fear that – in this case – by far less cases of simulation would be whistled as such by the referee due to the enormous impact on a match the referee is naturally aware of, too. At the same time, we put forward the demand to issue post-match suspensions inflicted by the federations’ arbitral courts, as soon as simulation, which is undoubtfully proven, has had a decisive influence on a match, e.g. by provoking a wrong sending-off against an opponent or by gaining a penalty kick with the aid of simulation. This could obtain a long term, deterrent virtue on players.


  1. Post-match suspensions for sure should be instated for eliminate the behaviour. Simulating players think they have nothing to lose by trying.

    1. Anonymous22/4/13 09:32

      The problem is that often is very difficult to detect a real simulation, sometimes players are very skillful.

    2. Agreed. It takes courage to take a decision on a contentious decision where the player may have dived. Definitely need plenty of education to help deal with it. Sometimes very little we can do on the field.

  2. Anonymous22/4/13 18:24

    This a very important measure in order to 'save fairplay'. However, there is something that is much more important: The referees must be consistent meaning that they should apply the rules the same way to both teams and to all players. Because in general, the teams tagged 'nice' and the players tagged 'nice' escape from sanctions, and even profit from these rules, most of the time.

    And unfortunately, most of the 'best' referees in Europe tend to use the rules to the advantages of 'nice' teams and 'nice' players, and to the disadvantages of 'less nice' teams and players. The latter is useful to show the "See, I am following the new rules" :-(


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