In January of this year Sports Shorts wrote about the possibility of the introduction of a retrospective diving ban. At the time of writing it was unclear whether the FA would be able to convince its various stakeholders this was a good idea.
Ahead of the culmination of the Premier League season on Sunday, the FA announced that it would be extending its powers to punish “simulation” (diving to you and I) retrospectively from next season and that a new offence of “Successful Deception of a Match Official” was approved at last Thursday’s FA annual general meeting.
The FA further confirmed that:
“Where there is clear and overwhelming evidence to suggest a match official has been deceived by an act of simulation, and as a direct result, the offending player’s team has been awarded a penalty and/or an opposing player has been dismissed, The FA will be able to act retrospectively under its Fast Track system.
A panel consisting of one ex-match official, one ex-manager and one ex-player will be asked to review all available video footage of the incident independently of one another and then advise The FA as to whether they believe it was an offence of ‘Successful Deception of a Match Official’. Only in circumstances where the panel are unanimous would The FA charge the individual concerned.
This process would be similar to the one used now for a red card offence [violent conduct/serious foul play/spitting at an opponent] which was not seen at the time by the match officials but caught on camera. In this situation, three ex-elite match officials review all the available video footage independently of one another and then advise The FA as to whether they believe it was an offence worthy of instant dismissal.
In accepted and/or proven cases of simulation and/or feigning injury, the offending player would receive a two-match suspension.”
Of particular interest in the FA’s statement is the make-up of the panel which, together with an ex-official, includes an ex-manager and an ex-player, suggesting that the FA does not believe that officials alone are the best people to decide on such matters and that a level of inside information may be beneficial in assessing whether a player has truly been guilty of simulation.
Also of interest is the fact that each panel member shall reach a decision independently of the others and that a charge will be made only in the event of a unanimous decision. Given the subjectivity of such matters, and the differences of opinion that can occur even whilst down the pub, one wonders if this will mean the number of charges will end up being relatively modest?
Whilst exact details of the new rule have not yet been released it is likely to be similar to Rule 201 of the Scottish Football Association Disciplinary Rules.
The retrospective nature of the offence will be the first to specifically address incidents which have been ‘seen’ by officials during matches as opposed to those which were ‘unseen’ by officials opening up the age old debate of whether or not this takes the game in the direction of re-refereeing decisions already taken in a match.
Another significant issue is the fact that the proposed rule will have no effect on the overall outcome of the game.
For example, think of a situation where Team A and Team B are level on points at the top of the table going into the final match of the season, and Team A’s star player wins a penalty through simulation leading them to win the game. The only sanction that would follow would be that the player would end up with a two match ban whilst Team A would still win the championship even though the panel unanimously agreed the penalty should not have been awarded.
Then imagine this scenario at the other end of the table and a team being relegated as a result of “successful deception” of the referee. The financial repercussions could be huge and the potential for litigation more than likely.
It is for this reason that some within the game, including former England manager Sam Allardyce, have criticised the new rule suggesting instead greater investment should be made into the use of Video Assistant Referees and more in-game decision making and also the possibility of sin-bins.
Whatever happens there is sure to be controversy when the rule is invoked and Sports Shorts will be watching closely the repercussions that follow.