Football Federation Australia’s decision this week to use video evidence to punish players guilty of diving for the upcoming A-League season should be hugely commended.
The FFA announced on Friday that the A-League’s match review panel would be allowed to investigate incidents of simulation not spotted by the referee during a match and duly suspend players for such offences.
FFA chief executive officer Ben Buckley said, “I think everyone – fans, players and media – believe that simulation is unacceptable, and I am sure this change will be appreciated by the whole football community.”
Indeed, in a nation where the public enjoy extremely physical sports like AFL or Rugby, the antics of diving football players is met with disbelief by many new to the game.
And in the context of Australia, where football is fighting for attention amongst a number of sports, trying to eradicate one of the biggest blights on the game is a great move by the FFA.
Often you hear non-footballing types speaking about the problem of diving in the round ball game. And incidents like Rivaldo’s infamous play-acting at the 2002 World Cup or the antics of Chinese club Tianjin Teda against Central Coast in the AFC Champions League recently are cases which turn potential converts off the game.
Of course, it happens amongst A-League players too, and nobody can forget Cristiano’s penalty-winning simulation for Adelaide United against Melbourne Victory last season.
And that incident brought with it calls from A-League coaches, led by Melbourne’s Ernie Merrick, for the match review panel to review such offences.
Indeed, it has been argued for years that the best way to remove diving from the game is to analyse matches on video replays and suspend players found guilty of such offences.
It simply means players will think twice before taking a dive (because they probably won’t get away with it), thus being less inclined to ‘cheat’, as some would call it.
But the stumbling block for all this to go ahead has been the international body FIFA’s stance on using technology.
For years FIFA have stated in their disciplinary code that ‘the disciplinary decisions taken by the referee on the field of play during a match are final.’
It means if a referee misses an incident during a match, there is no way to retrospectively punish that player.
But Buckley has ignored FIFA’s hesitancy on the issue and got proactive by introducing new powers for the match review panel.
The FFA CEO added, “It is important to us that the Hyundai A-League’s disciplinary provisions are not only consistent with those of the sport internationally, but also with community expectations within Australia.”
Indeed, in the context of sport in Australia with several codes battling for attention and credibility, the FFA’s watershed decision is refreshingly proactive and should be acknowledged.