15th May – Penalties reversed.

Pretending to be fouled in the area in an attempt to win a penalty kick, has evolved from ludicrous opportunism, into a sophisticated art form. Some players are now so expert in ‘leaving a trailing leg in’ or, ‘locking-on’ to an opponent, that it’s often their preferred option when they are inside the box [inside box: see also further rule change suggestion coming soon].

The referees have two aids to assist them here. One is VAR, which is mostly useless to assist. The two-dimensional stills are misleading and have too large a margin of error; slow motion strips away context and makes it more difficult to judge the offence; there are insufficient angles to show what really happened; and some players have become adept at ‘playing to VAR’ – knowing how a toenail ‘contact’ will look on a freeze-frame, especially, when judged in cold blood, by a pedant in a video replay booth.

Face it: he feels a touch, he’s going to go down.

The second, is that the referee can give a yellow card to the player that he believes has dived. This is supposed to act as a deterrent. Some yellow cards are handed out in this way, but deterrent it is not. If anything, players are getting better at cheating in this way, and there is more of it now than there ever was.

It needs a rule change. How about this? If a referee suspects a player of diving, he does not penalise him with a yellow card, but instead, awards a reverse penalty to the other (defending) side. Let the punishment fit the crime – an attempt to gain an ill-won penalty, risks conceding one.

Who’d do it then?

Some will oppose this change, citing our own argument against us: that players have become very adept in their ability to con the ref, and the cameras. How can they be detected in their cheating? But it won’t work that way. As it stands, they can afford to risk it, there is no jeopardy in a potential yellow card. But, after this rule change, they can no longer take the risk. They don’t know for sure how it’s going to look on the VAR replays, or how the referee might see it live. And now, the punishment for getting it wrong is costly. So instead, they adapt their play to take away this risk, and they remove this cheat from their playbook. That’s what a deterrent looks like: utter terror of the consequences of being rumbled. Ask anyone who stole an orange and got sent to Australia for it.

It works in a similar way when a player is felled in the box. Instead of lying on the ground, trying to convince the ref they’ve been fouled, as they now do. With this change, unsure as to how the he might judge their actions, the player is more likely to do the opposite, and jump up to persuade the the ref that they are waving away their claim.

Yes, there’d be injustices with a system like this. There are now, and they are tolerated; unwarranted yellow cards are handed out; unfair penalties are still awarded against innocent teams. Under a reverse penalty system, a player who has not dived, but is believed to have done so by the referee, will concede a reverse penalty, and that will feel like a profound injustice. But it’s no worse than what happens now, and this is where the real value of the new rule will come in. So shocking will a wrong reverse penalty decision be, that no one will dare go anywhere near the risk of conceding one ever again, and such miscarriages of justice will soon become vanishingly rare events.

Think about it. The fear of being judged to have dived when you haven’t, will encourage players do everything in their power to stay on their feet – to make the tackle look as least like a foul as they can. They will try to press on and score a goal. They will only go to ground when the tackle, or foul, is so robust that it is impossible to do otherwise.

And suddenly, the assumption of the referee, the crowd, the commentator, the VAR operator, will no longer default to the cynical. The presumption of innocence will begin to prevail, and the officials will start to judge the action from a different perspective – the one that they should have always used, and once did: that the actions speak for themselves, the old res ipsa. Like that time I parked the car on a hill and forgot to put the brake on.

And so, eventually, reverse penalty awards will become so rare they’ll be reduced to a novelty, notable only for the ridiculous antics of the idiots that gave them away. And before long, their real value, and their legacy, will be one of eradicating this form of cheating from the game forever.

2 thoughts on “15th May – Penalties reversed.

  1. Listen mate, I play park football right, and we don’t have incentives or detergents or whatever you call them. What happened once right, this skinny bloke come in off the right wing. I knew him a bit, he lived down me nan’s end. First time he come in the box all match – looking for a late equalizer they were. Anyway he was shit right, but fast, and the ball comes to him and instead of shooting what normal blokes would have done, he tries to go round the fullback. Din’t have the bottle to take it on. He knocks it past him, too far as it goes, then as he runs after it, he trips himself up. I see it. I was stood on the penalty spot. He knew it too you could tell, but no one else saw nothing. They get the penalty and all that and score, but just when they were getting organised to take the pen, and it’s all kicking off and that and everyone’s shouting bollocks at the ref, I din’t get involved I just looked at this skinny wanker. He sees me, and I see in his eyes that he knew what I knew. I din’t say nothing, but I done this thing with me head right. Just a whatyacallit, like a gesture, whatever. He knew what it meant. To go and tell the ref it wasn’t a pen. He din’t – probably cos he was such a shithouse he was scared of his own team too. They equalized and we din’t get in play-offs. So, after the match I got him in the car park and I done him in the mush with half a house brick. Only once like. He probably never done that again as it goes. But if we’d have had a brick on the pitch with us when they got the pen, we’d have gone up that year. I should have started taking one on in a goalie’s glove and hid it in the net, but you only think of these things when its too late, don’t you?

    Liked by 1 person

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