My letter to Professional Game Match Officials Chairman Mike Riley about simulation
Been thinking about this letter for about a year, but finally put the letter out earlier this summer. I somehow got the wrong address and it got sent back to me, but i found the ‘correct’ address and bought a second stamp for this exercise. It was sent to Mike Riley, ex-referee and head of the Professional Game Match Officials. Wasn’t totally sure who to sent this letter to, but the problem started in the EPL and by referees in the EPL so i guessed it was due to a collaboration of those guys. This letter was born out of a week in October i believe, the week Phil Neville got booked for diving, im sure many of you can remember that!!. Pretty sure off top of my head there were about 5 questionable bookings over that weekend for diving added to 2 or 3 from the previous weekend. This was no coincidence. The letter is self explanatory and i do’t really expect a reply, particularly due to the way the media treats refs.
Thanks for visting this website, which i hope you enjoy. The letter is below. Please follow me on twitter to keep up to date and to view my illustrations.
Professional Game Match Officials Limited
30 Gloucester Place
24 July 2013
I have recently been thinking about things that stood out in the English Premier League last season. One of the main things that springs to mind is they way that simulation was addressed over the course of the 2012-13 season. There was a noticeable ‘crack down’ on alleged simulation. However it was clearly apparent that the stance that was taken was to book a player if in doubt. I am simply writing to enquire as to why this was felt to be the correct point of view.
I do not advocate cheating in any way. FIFA clearly define simulation as ‘Attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled’. The use of the word ‘deceive’ demonstrates that simulation is a form of cheating, which it is. It appears that referees collectively decided to enforce bookings for suspected perpetrators in order to wean it out of our game. We hear it regularly on TV where pundits refer to any number of situations by declaring that if referees started giving freekicks/penalties/booking for a situation we would see numerous red cards for a week or two and then the situation would sort its self out. Typically this is for pushing in the box, but it demonstrates the point. I believe that this is a misconception. Some things are unavoidable and are a natural part of the game. Some physical contact is to be expected. Another misconception born out of a footballing cliché is ‘if it isn’t a foul it’s a dive’. Clearly, a ludicrous statement. A player can loose balance, trip on the turf or expect more or less contact than received and go down which would not be a foul either way.
Booking players for simulation where it is not clear-cut, affects the game and in some situations the result of the game. This is not the job of a referee. There are numerous examples last season where players were booked for simulation where they deserved to have actually won a penalty. I appreciate that it is far more difficult to decipher challenges in the modern game at the top level. Speed plays a huge part, of the players and the game in general, but also the way that players react. I believe the reaction of players has played a massive part in the evolution of refereeing. Be it the way players roll about on the floor, cover the faces or even the way other players close by chose to react. Realistically none of those factors should alter the end result, but they often do.
Some simulation is obvious. See Luis Suarez vs Stoke for a prime example. They are deserving of a booking. However where lightening pace is involved and contact by a defender is made I cannot see how yellow cards can be issued. Ground must be carefully trod as reputations that effect future games could begin. Look at Gareth Bale. Booked a record time for simulation over the course of the season I believe. Whilst some instances were questionable, many were guesses and wrong guesses. See the Sunderland game for a clear example. He now has to go into games with the knowledge that most referees will treat him differently and if in doubt will edge on the side against him.
Don’t get me wrong. Simulation is something that needs to be addressed. Over the recent years we have seen the likes of Drogba, Young, Ronaldo and Suarez attempt to deceive the referee on a weekly basis. But ‘guilty if in doubt’ is not the way forward. It’s clear that the best way to tackle the situation is retrospectively, is this possible? Whilst we do not want retrospective action on every element of the game the FA has acted with regards to racism and violent conduct in this fashion. Maybe something is possible with a bit of collaboration. I would like to think that refereeing with regards to this issue will improve next season and become more balanced.
Lastly I would like to say that I think referees generally do a fantastic job. A much better job than most people and media give them credit for. They are an integral part of the game. In the main I enjoy what they add and in fact I am not an advocate for ‘technology’. Let referees ref the game, but remember they are not the stars of the show.