Diving: Is it now part of the game?

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An incident on Tuesday night when Arsenal hosted West Ham United in the Premier League has sparked the debate about diving in the game.

16 minutes into the game, with the score still goalless, Gunners right-back Bacary Sagna clearly made contact with Hammers winger Matt Jarvis in the box when he swung out at the ball, but missed and hit Jarvis, who stumbled but did not fall to the ground to win a penalty.

Instead referee Kevin Friend waved play on, prompting criticism from Sam Allardyce and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville that failure to award fouls if the player stays on his feet encourages ‘diving’.

Allardyce said after the match: “For years now, the facts are that when you stay on your feet referees don’t give penalties. The ref finds it very difficult to give. For honesty there is no reward. So what do I do?

“A foul is a foul, it doesn’t matter whether you go down or stay on your feet. You get slaughtered for diving, but when someone is honest you don’t get what you should get.

“Every team, when you stay on your feet particularly in the penalty area, it’s a critical decision so you have to make the referee’s mind up.”

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Meanwhile, Neville said on TV analysing the game: “He should have gone down. Well done, your team haven’t won a game.

“You can either be an angel and do what Matt Jarvis did and get a pat on the back off his Nan when he goes home tonight, or he can win his team a penalty.

“The referee won’t give it if you don’t go down. Sam [Allardyce] said it, if you don’t go down you don’t get a penalty. It’s a foul.

“I suppose in some ways people can say ‘It’s disappointing to hear you say that Gary’ – well then, be disappointed because ultimately that’s the game.”

Neville was speaking as a pundit on Sky Sports
Neville was speaking as a pundit on Sky Sports

So is diving now a good thing and something that the game needs?

Neville also spoke about how we’re the only country that takes a negative view on diving, whilst other countries just include it in playing the game – a fact that is evident in the antics of the likes of Arjen Robben and Neymar.

It also came into the limelight last Sunday, when Luis Suarez, already on a yellow card for Liverpool against Manchester City, appeared to dive under the challenge of. The referee did not award a penalty but did not show Suarez another yellow card either.

I think that’s where the problem lies. Referees either have to be strict with players diving or just accept it as part of the game, which many fans are beginning to do.

When a player from your team commits a dive to win a penalty it’s all good, but when an opponent’s player does it, supporters are in uproar and continually boo the player.

I think to be fair we are seeing it less and less in the Premier League now, and the actions of Jarvis perhaps show a change for the better. But players like Ashley Young and Luis Suarez have earned reputations for diving in the past, and referees may now take that into consideration when officiating a game with said players involved.

Players such as Luis Suarez have earned a reputation for diving
Players such as Luis Suarez have earned a reputation for diving

Furthermore, it isn’t that clear where this country stands when it comes to diving. We criticise players for going down too easily, but then when they try to stay on their feet we say that they should have gone down.

My view? I feel as though diving is always going to be part of the game, so we just have to accept. I think referees need to clamp down on it when it happens. Matt Jarvis perhaps should have gone to ground, as it wasn’t a dive, Bacary Sagna made clear contact that the ref could see and probably would have awarded a spot-kick had the West Ham winger gone down. It’s all right doing it once in a while to try and earn your team a penalty, but I think reputations can affect players like Robben and Suarez. If they go down after proper contact, refs may not award a foul because they think the player is faking it like he has done in the past. That’s when it can cost you.

But for now we need diving in the game, just to add that little bit of controversy and excitement. Feel free to disagree and discuss in the comments below!

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