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Friday, 11 February 2011

Making Football More Appealing

8.1, 9.2, 8.5, 9.1. He'll be happy with that

We all hate diving. But what to do about it? Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Magic Spongers Mr Ben Wall.

There are countless sides to every argument in football, divergence on the most basic principles and downright disbelief at some of the decisions we see on a Saturday (by players, managers and referees alike). This isn’t going to change.

Fortunately we have the likes of Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp to talk us through these momentous events that shape our weekend; not to mention the likes of Mark Bright to provide insight into the deeper workings of the beautiful game. Of course, the boys at Magic Spongers like to pitch in, realising the futility perhaps, but acknowledging the worth of fighting the cause of enlightenment. This isn’t going to change either.

Taking this into consideration I thought I’d discuss something that most football fans agree should change. Now I’ve been known to come up with some pretty controversial ideas in my time, and one of my favourite topics is developing ways of improving the laws of the game we love. When I’m in my most reflective mood, I accept some of these ideas are at best inapplicable (enforced substitution when a player has been down over 30 seconds for instance). However, the following is, if I might say so myself, pretty much flawless.

I hate diving. Go down the pub tonight and ask a group of football fans who hates players diving and, unless Brighty is among them – there is no telling what he’ll say - you might just witness an incredible event:- a bunch of pissed up football fans in agreement about something to do with football. No one likes diving.

The problem with diving is there is a massive potential upside (penalty) and no significant downside (a yellow card in rare cases). So let’s even that up. I’m a big advocate of retrospective punishment. I suggest that any major incidents (we can start with penalties) be reviewed after the game and a three match ban given to those caught diving. The last thing a manager wants to do is lose his best player for a significant amount of games. The downside suddenly outweighs the upside and the manager would tell his players not to dive. Problem solved.

Wait! Wait! I hear Andy Townsend desperately squeak. That’s too simple. Anyone who knows anything about football knows that this is too much of a grey area. The players are travelling at such speed, changing direction, jumping out of the way of challenges, slipping on the golden Wembley turf; people go down all the time for a variety of reasons and it wouldn’t be possible to separate the falls from the dives.

I hear you Andy. So let me introduce to you the shiniest of legislative apples: people, I bring you the appeal law. Put simply, the rule is as follows: if you want a penalty you have first got to ask for one. Why bring “howzat” into football? It solves the Townsend Dilemma. If a player has slipped or jumped or fallen he shouldn’t appeal, the referee does not give the penalty and the game goes on as normal. If on the other hand the player feels he was fouled, he appeals and the referee gives his decision as normal. In the case of the appeal, the incident is reviewed after the game and if the player is seen to have cheated, a hefty suspension is handed out.

My supposition is a player would not appeal for a penalty when he dives because of the risk of suspension, and if he did and got suspended his manager would not take kindly to it. Of course the benefit of the doubt will be with the attacker. The board will only suspend players where they are sure it is a dive. The player may go down under a tackle, appeal, not get a penalty but not be punished. Only dives will be punished. The point is players will not risk diving (and appealing) because the cost is too great, and it will be eliminated from the game.

Having conquered diving, other unsavoury areas of the game will come into focus such as time wasting and dissent. Imagine how old Brighty will feel if we deliver him a return to the golden age of football (which happened to be when he was playing), with no diving, time wasting and cheating. Of course he’d still pine for the career-ending challenges and the good old fashioned centre forward, elbowing his way into the box to stick his head on the end of another long and aimless punt.

Some things never change, but fortunately for us all, at least few things can and do.


  1. Nice idea, I like the thought of the referee making his own mind secretly and waiting for the player to slowly get to his feet and confidently point at the penalty spot just for the Ref to obnoxiously shout in his face NOOOOOO!
    On a more serious point, there would be games where taking a suspension would be worth it, world cup/ Champ league/ semi/ final stages. I dont think the problem with what Suarez did lies with managers condoning blatant handballs for the sake of winning. He's just a bad bastard!
    But still, maybe if they are'nt doing it for 95% of the year it wouldn't come as instinctivly as it seems to now. Might even get a return to the dramatic simulations of the late eighties early nineties.

    Nice little thought you provoke though. Shame the people who run the game we love hate their thoughts being prevoked!

  2. I think this would turn the appealing into a sideshow much like the referral system in cricket has turned an appeal into a chance for a corporation to hijack the game with an advert for a mobile phone.

  3. Thanks Niall. I accept your point about semi finals/ finals etc… However I see this as pretty similar to professional fouls - in the last minute it might be worth taking the risk – but most the time it is effective. Also don’t forget the referee still makes the decision as normal. Regarding the people who run the game, unfortunately that’s another thing that will never change!

  4. Excellent article Mr Wall. I never realised you had such a beautiful way with words. And being one who has heard many of your crackpot ideas in the past, including your famous All Saints domination theory, I was suprised to find myself nodding along to your simple but effective solution to diving. Bravo

  5. Stick to social dominance mate.