The decisive moment in Sunday’s encounter at Old Trafford perfectly highlighted everything that is corroding our game.
That Ashley Young’s blatant offside position was not picked up by yet another incompetent official was bad enough; Young throwing himself to the ground feeling the slightest touch from Shaun Derry, whose only crime was to have the audacity to be on the field of play, was an absolute disgrace. The decision of Lee Mason – who’s not shy when ir comes to awarding a penalty – to give a spot kick and to compound it with a red card was unfathomable.
The standards of refereeing in this country are poor. Whether they’re perceived as poor due to increased TV scrutiny is irrelevant. There are too many decisions being called incorrectly.
The players, however, aren’t helping one bit. They have, in my opinion, a duty to play by the rules. By all means go down if you’re hit. But stay on your feet if you can. And don’t pretend you’ve been hurt when you haven’t.
Of course, that’s never going to happen now; not voluntarily anyway. Therefore retrospective action is required. Five game bans for any player found guilty of diving, or even exaggerating a foul, and points deductions for clubs whose players offend more than three times, would quickly eradicate this issue which is ruining our game. Yes, ruining.
Dzeko and Perch last week, Young this week; all cheating, all trying to influence the referee, all trying to get something that they’re not entitled to. Joey Barton set the standard in the first game of the season, ‘making sure the referee saw’ that Gervinho had touched him (after Barton incited him in the first place), exaggerating contact that wouldn’t have hurt a toddler. It’s absolutely pathetic. Play the game, stop trying to cheat. Let the referee make the calls, based on reasonable, not fraudulent evidence.
If you misrepresented evidence in court you’d be found guilty of contempt, and that’s precisely what these cheats are doing in football. They are in contempt of our game. And they need to be stopped. Now. Retrospective bans and points deductions may sound a hard line to take, but if the authorities don’t act now, our game will be lost for ever to the cheats, fakes and frauds.