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The Continental Disease

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 18/04/2004

THE Premier League have decided to close the door after the horse has bolted. The trouble is, this particular horse bolted about 7 years ago, or even longer.

Home > Features > 2004 Features > The Continental Disease

So what is this about?

Wait for it.

Premier League referees are to clamp down on simulation next season.

Simulation, dear reader, is not some perverted sexual act. It is much worse.

Keith Hackett, described as "a former league official and head of the elite and national list of referees" has issued a warning about the epidemic of simulation throughout Europe but not in the UK.

Not because it has not been going on here but because Mr Hackett has not yet realised that the UK has been a part of Europe for more than 20 years!

"Simulation was a European problem but it's here," Hackett said. "We won't sit by and watch the scenario, we are alert to it"

One would hope that all caring parents would be alert to it too. We have enough problems without those strange continental practises gaining a foothold.

But have no fear Fishy reader. In a move to protect our subscribers we have carried out some research into this malady afflicting Europe to find out exactly what it is and how it can be cured.

And what did we find? What is all the fuss about?

Simulation is Diving!

Not your run of the mill 3.5 and 2.6 degree of difficulty diving. No Sir! We are talking about the real stuff, Jack Lester style!

So the news is that referees are to clamp down on this simulation business next season.

( But for the rest of this season Messrs Lester, Vierra and Neville are free to demonstrate the true art achieved through years of practise and specialist training by the famous Grimsby diver George McLean.)

The said Mr Hackett, in his newly acquired EuroSpeak added; "Instead of erring on the side of caution, when people are trying to get a penalty we'll issue a caution." (I am still trying to work that one out)

"We'll talk to managers and players and attempt to reduce the occurrences of this. We will offer managers at Football League and Premiership level consultation with referees. We are trying to educate players in the laws of the game."

Perhaps Mr Hackett should save his time and instead try to educate the referees.

Because although diving has always been part of the game, back in the "old" days it was restricted to the penalty area where the most benefit could be obtained. (not that that made it right) But today, players can be seen falling, twisting, somersaulting, and performing ballet movements Nureyev would have envied.

And one of the major reasons for this is that referees are unlikely to blow the whistle unless the player goes down. When this issue was first brought up some years ago, players were complaining bitterly that referees seemed to be taking the view that if you remained standing after a tackle "it cannot have been too bad." and declined to stop the game.

And that was one of the major causes of the 'diving culture' impounded by the fact that players started to get away with it, which effectively made it part of team tactics. So much so, that many managers today chastise players who do not go to ground after a tackle.

Praise to the Premier League for trying to stop this side of the game, but they will not succeed if the people who control the game, the referees, are not consistent in their treatment of 'real' fouls. A player who is fouled is fouled, regardless of whether he hits the ground or not and a free kick or penalty should be awarded. (except in the case of the referee playing the 'advantage' rule)

If that was standard practise by all referees, we might see less of the 'continental disease', which in Italy, is accepted as a real art form.

But until then, we miss you badly Jack!

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