If there’s one way to become the centre of attention overnight, it’s by reducing Chelsea to nine men against rivals Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. As Mark Clattenburg controversially whipped out a second yellow for Torres’ “dive”, the fury from the Chelsea fans was tangible and it was evident that Clattenburg would be hung, drawn, and quartered the next day. Admittedly, much of the focus has been on the accusation of racial abuse, however many have criticized his decision to send off Fernando Torres and book Antonio Valencia for diving. But were these rulings as unjust as people perceive them to be?
The footballing world has been in uproar in recent times over the “diving” disease that plagues the game. Fans, managers, and players alike have been up in arms over players trying to con referees by tumbling to the ground after minimal contact. It is seen as a form of cheating, as it gives the team an undeserved advantage – such as a penalty – and this deception is rightly frowned upon. Players such as Luis Suárez and Ashley Young have developed a reputation for diving, leaving members of the football world seething: prior to the Merseyside derby, Everton manager David Moyes remarked that diving “ruins the game” and attacked Suárez by stating “[Suárez’s diving] will turn the supporters away from football…” (Guardian Football).
So it’s evident that diving is loathed in football and that we all want it eradicated. In response, referees have been punishing offenders by being more willing to issue yellow cards for simulation. This provides an incentive for players to stay on their feet and not plummet to the grass when a finger scrapes their arm. However, referees are fallible beings (they are humans, believe it or not) so mistakes are inevitably going to be made along the way and yellow cards will be wrongly issued. The fact is that some players have become masters at simulation and referees only get one look at the incident, so it is difficult to make the correct decision 100 per cent of the time. But it is the extreme criticism and resentment following decisions such as Clattenburg’s that will discourage referees from punishing simulation in the future. Without this punishment, players will continue to dive, they will continue to gain undeserved advantages, and they will continue to ruin the game.
So before demolishing Clattenburg completely, have a look at the broader picture of what the man is trying to achieve, because now it is likely that he will ignore the next dive and will be lambasted for it again. It’s a lose-lose situation for him, but it’s an even worse loss for football.