Wednesday 18 September 2019

What exactly is the FA’s diving panel?

And could it help eradicate cheating in football?

Arsenal's Hector Bellerin and Watford's Richarlison
Arsenal's Hector Bellerin and Watford's Richarlison

By Max McLean

Former footballers and pundits debated whether or not Watford’s Richarlison had dived to win his side a penalty against Arsenal at the weekend, but what would happen if it could be proved?

That’s where the Football Association’s new panel comes in, a group who have the power to discipline those who are found guilty of simulation.

Who are they, and what can they do they do to make the beautiful game that bit more beautiful?

What is it?

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Of course, it’s not actually called the diving panel – it could equally and perhaps more humorously be described as the diving board.

The panel is the result of a new regulatory offence, “Successful Deception of a Match Official”, that was approved by the FA Council in May – it seeks to target those who carry out acts of simulation with retrospective action.

The panel would be made up of a former manager, a former player and a former match official, who would analyse all available footage independent of one another – they would have to be unanimous in a guilty verdict for a player to be punished.

When would they convene?

Referee Deniz Aytekin shows a red card during a Bundesliga game

The panel wouldn’t convene for any old dive – the act of simulation in question would have to have led to a penalty being awarded or a red card issued.

Interestingly, this applies to two yellow cards as well, so if a player was deemed to have dived and caused an opponent to pick up an initial booking, he would only be at the mercy of the panel if his opponent later on got himself sent off for a second bookable offence.

Got that? Right, let’s meet the people who will be in charge of the divers’ fate.

Who’s on it?

Former footballer Danny Murphy

The panel would be made up of three people picked from a pool of 13.

In that pool are former managers Terry Butcher, Chris Powell, Alex McLeish and Nigel Adkins, as well as former players Danny Murphy, Lee Dixon, Trevor Sinclair and Rachel Brown-Finnis.

Interestingly, there are no former strikers on the panel.

Making up the final third would be one of five former match officials: Eddie Wolstenhome, Alan Wiley, Mike Mullarkey, Steve Dunn and Keren Barratt.

Panel members will be selected with conflict of interest in mind, so presumably former Arsenal full-back Lee Dixon would not be in contention for any incidents involving his former side.

What’s the punishment?

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Should all three panel members come to a guilty verdict, the player charged will receive a two-game ban.

Furthermore, the Independent Regulatory Commission will have the power to rescind cautions and dismissals issued to players who were incorrectly disciplined for the “foul”.

There is, however, no option for points to be retrospectively awarded to any team who falls foul of a diver.

What does the FA have to say about it?

A football

In a statement back in May, the FA said: “Although attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled is a cautionable offence for unsporting behaviour, the fact that the act of simulation has succeeded in deceiving a match official and, therefore, led to a penalty and/or dismissal, justifies a more severe penalty which would act as a deterrent.”

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