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Diving isn't a problem in Scottish football

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Jack Ross | 11:59 UK time, Monday, 26 April 2010

A certain four letter word will usually get a player into trouble with a referee, but in recent times that word is as likely to be "dive" as it is any expletive!

The examination of, and punishment for simulation, as it is known, have increased dramatically, and yet, do players feel that it is a major problem within the game, and therefore worthy of the increased attention such incidents generate?

My opinion, based on playing in the SPL for the past five seasons, is that there is no great issue with players deliberately diving to win fouls.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and thus a very small minority of players who will do this.

But even then, most of these will be players who perhaps are just good at drawing fouls from the opposition.

If this is the case, should these players be criticised, or should they just be accepted as a part and parcel of the game?

After all, in basketball, players are encouraged to lure opponents into committing infringements.St Johnstone players appeal for a handball against St Mirren's Stephen O'Donnell

Another case for the defence is that often incidents look far worse when shown on slow motion replays.

These can disguise the reality of the situation, as players are often moving at such a pace that the slightest contact will knock them off balance.

Similarly, the avoidance of contact by a player from a tackle by an opponent can result in them going down without any physical impact; yet, surely most would agree that this is still a foul.

It may seem strange that a full back, who regularly plays against wide players who will win more than fair share of free kicks, is so adamant that diving is not a major problem in Scottish Football.

But I genuinely have had little experience of an opponent blatantly diving.

Furthermore, there are few occasions when the talk in the dressing room either post match, or during the week, is of a player being a diving cheat.

There are plenty of comments regarding a player being slow or quick, skilful, overly physical or "dirty" but not many on those going down easily.

As touched on earlier, of course there are times when officials are correct in their punishment of individuals who look to con them and other players.

However, I feel that there are areas of the games that perhaps deserve more attention and publicity, such as the blocking of opponents of set pieces!

If we were to describe those who obviously dive as cheating, then how do we view other aspects of the game such as falsely claiming a throw in or corner? Do we just regard this as part of the game and move on?

I would suggest we do, as the desire to win often overwhelms what would be deemed good sportsmanship.

For example, in our recent game against St Johnstone, Stephen O'Donnell handled a shot on the line but escaped a red card because the officials could not identify him as the offender.

In a perfect world, Stephen would approach the referee, volunteer his guilt and accept his punishment.

Of course, he didn't do so because no player would (or very, very few would) since it is part of their playing personality to win at all costs.

Similarly, when we played Motherwell, Jim O'Brien won a penalty against us.

He admitted on the park and afterwards that it was not a foul but a good tackle by Hugh Murray; but he did not ask the referee to reverse the decision.

I like Jim as a player and person and certainly do not think any different of him for not showing outstanding sportsmanship, because I would know and expect that one of my team-mates would have done exactly the same.

It's a little ironic that I am writing this on the back of the admission of a penalty stroke by the golfer Brian Davis.

His honesty was truly admirable, especially in the context of it costing him a tournament victory.

However, it must be noted that it took place in a different sport one where competitors are afforded silence for shots, and so on.

I would suggest that a similar show of integrity would be missing in a football cup final, or league decider.

This blog is not aimed at defending the bad in football but rather at offering a frank, truthful view on what players do to win matches.

Furthermore, it only goes to highlight how difficult a job being a match official can be in our sport!


  • Comment number 1.

    Of course, diving is not a problem in Scottish football... the ground is usually too hard.

  • Comment number 2.

    golf isnt a team sport. if you admit to handling the ball on the line 10 other people, not to mention subs, manager, backroom staff, and very importantly, 10s of thousands of fans, suffer. very different situation than costing you and you alone a tournament

  • Comment number 3.

    i dont know turkish, if fir park gets much boggier they may as well put up a diving board and hosts swimming competitions

  • Comment number 4.

    The tendency for people to, over time, take advantage of every advantage is to be expected, but we only have to look at Wall Street to realize what happens when we throw our hands up.

    Maybe you can't expect players to own up to things referees didn't see, but there's a huge difference between that and lying about throw-ins, etc, to simulate fouls when clearly there wasn't one. The latter is intentional, and devalues the game and cheapens the experience for - and make angry - half the spectators. It leads to situations where no one can be trusted, and ultimately, where games are decided not by skill with the ball, but by who's a better liar and cheater.

    I for one will never be gung-ho about cheating. That's what it is and that's never all right with me.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Similarly, the avoidance of contact by a player from a tackle by an opponent can result in them going down without any physical impact; yet, surely most would agree that this is still a foul."

    A foul to whom? The whole article seems to have the attitude 'yes, we cheat a bit in football, get over it!' Sad.

  • Comment number 6.

    5. At 1:40pm on 26 Apr 2010, Rabster wrote:
    "Similarly, the avoidance of contact by a player from a tackle by an opponent can result in them going down without any physical impact; yet, surely most would agree that this is still a foul."

    A foul to whom? The whole article seems to have the attitude 'yes, we cheat a bit in football, get over it!' Sad.

    Did you get a chance to see the villa-birmingham game yesterday? Vignal got booked (quite rightly) for a late, lunging tackle on Downing, despite not making contact.

    I have to say i don't agree with your take on the article, as Jack says himself, "This blog is not aimed at defending the bad in football but rather at offering a frank, truthful view on what players do to win matches."

    The problem will not go away until the authorities stamp down on all forms of cheating, but unfortunately they don't seem to have any power to do so, for example the Eduardo (I think) diving incident in the Champs League.

  • Comment number 7.

    > The whole article seems to have the attitude 'yes, we cheat a bit in football, get over it!' Sad.

    Not "a bit", but whenever and whatever we can get away with.

  • Comment number 8.

    No diving in Scotland! We had the privilege, week in week out, of watching the undisputed master, the Guv'nor, the 'Sultan of
    Sumulation' - step forward Henrik Larsson and take a bow.

  • Comment number 9.


    And if you watched Larsson week in and out as you claim you did you would also have noticed that he was a lot quicker than most of the defenders he was up against: like his equalising goal against Dunfermilne in the 2004 Cup Final a masterclass in finishing. If you can give just one example from your extensive memory where he was charged with diving? No don't think so. As you rightly said, it was a privelige to watch him week in and out, it really was and what a player!

    If you want to highlight individuals, you could mention Lafferty though!

  • Comment number 10.


    He was definitely booked against Motherwell for diving.

    But as #8 said, he was the undisputed master, very good at it hence rarely caught and booked.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.


    'undisputed'? As rated by????

    Like #8 you just confuse quick feet and movement with simulation. I think you have to separate out a forward at pace avoidng (or anticipating) contact (because that is actually what happens in all levels of football) from actual dives to wins fouls, or feigning injuries that are not there. In terms of the latter you may look at McCoist who got ready to 'swoon' the closer he got to the penalty box? Or Lafferty who gets taken down in a light wind?

    And Larsson was so good at it he was only rarely caught? What despite all the TV cameras and three officials??? Really do me a favour. Why not mention very obvious cases and not those you've made up: Ashley cole (when he was at Arsenal, or Lafferty faking headbutts against Aberdeen and Celtic?

  • Comment number 13.


    so predictable.

    Larsson = saint who would never think of diving.

    McCoist, Lafferty = guilty

    wonder who you support?

  • Comment number 14.

    Diving isn't a problem in Scottish football......

    since Nakamura went!

    eh remember those jack?

  • Comment number 15.


    so predictable.

    Larsson = saint who would never think of diving.

    McCoist, Lafferty = guilty

    wonder who you support?
    Oh come on wasn't Lafferty actually done by the SFA with faking a headbutt? Wasn't he banned for three games??? Wasn't he ridiculed in the press for it? Didn't even his own manger criticise his behaviour?? Have we seen any instances of similar behaviour this season from him?? Against Aberdeen it was a very obvious case of diving and it doesn't matter who you support because you can't actually think of any other examples as daft as this in Scottish football in recent years.

    And in case #14 is confused about things, Lafferty is still playing in the SPL today!!!

    There are no 'saints' in football (not even in Paisley or Perth) as the blog suggests #14. Sainthood is a whole different line of activity allegedly. Larsson was a great team player and may be many things but the 'undisputed' master of 'diving' I think not.

  • Comment number 16.

    Is anyone else tired of every comment page about Scottish football turning into a tit-for-tat argument between a few numpty old firm fans? I'm a Celtic fan myself but the blog didn't even mention the old firm!

    Get a grip.

  • Comment number 17.

    If the refs just followed the 'Laws of the game' instead of using their own judgements, the game would be a lot 'cleaner' anyway.

    How about giving cards everytime players use abusive language, like they are obliged to do, if they followed the rules.
    Or giving indirect freekicks everytime a defender 'shepherds' the ball out of play, this is clearly obstruction 9 times out of 10 ie the defender is not in control of the ball therefore has no right to prevent the forward from getting to it, yet when was the last time you saw the law adhered to?
    Or punishing EVERY handball with a card, it is either ball-to-hand, no free kick, or deliberate hand-ball, a card EVERY time.

  • Comment number 18.

    Clearly not an old firm fan, so neutral as possible. Laffable is a disgrace, and he's still at it. The over reaction with Scott Brown (admittedly, a heidbanger himself) was deplorable. Nakamura diving against Sts to win a match-winning free kick, VeryGone of Humperdinck throwing himself down in the box, after pulling at our defender for 20yds.None come close to the legendary John McDonald in the 80's who would go down if you looked at him in a funny way. So it's not a new phenomenon.
    You can't just blame the players. The standard of refereeing is awful in Scotland. It's a rare occurrence if the linesmen get an offside decision correct, and I've even heard refs swearing at players. Players will do what they can to win the game. If no-one else sees through it on the day, then it's up to the manager to take action afterwards, if one of his players cheats. Set an example, gaffers and stop the descent into the rolling around and injury feigning that goes on around Europe and the EPL. We're not there yet, and I hope we never will tolerate it in the SPL.

  • Comment number 19.

    Jack I disagree that diving is not a problem in Scottish football. One example from the weekend of a dive which probably changed the result of a game would be Lee McCulloch going to ground very easily when Colin Nish leaned on him before shooting and scoring. McCulloch is a big guy and quite happy to throw his weight around in a combative way, and is one example of a Scottish player who goes to ground easily as soon as someone 'fouls' him - it is a contact sport. Sticking with Rangers for one minute before mentioning a few other culprits from other teams, Walter Smith has defended Naismith (Boyd, Miller, Novo, McCulloch and Lafferty could also have used his defence)for going to ground and anticipating fouls and falling as soon as there is a touch!

    Someone like Billy Mehmet stands his ground and doesn't fall over the way guys like Boyd, Miller, McGeady do and he often ends up getting the free kicks awarded against him when opposing defenders climb all over him!

    Some non-Old Firm culprits: Jim O' Brien has made some fantasticly theatrical and fanciful dives this season. Chris McGuire was looking for a penalty after going down in the box for Killie on Saturday and made a ridiculously bad dive and penalty appeal in closing moments of the St Mirren v Aberdeen game in January with the scoreline at 1-0. For a big well-built guy Kevin Kyle also hits the deck a lot... and this is just scratching the surface of a few SPL teams.

  • Comment number 20.

    Your quite right Jack, the SPL is not tainted with diving players in the same way other European leagues are.
    There is certainly a difference between blatantly diving and avoiding contact from a tackle. Your are totally correct as it should always be a foul even if you are not physically hit.
    A foul to whom?
    Its human nature to try and get out the way of something that can inflict pain on you. If a player comes in knee high and you see it coming and he is'nt getting the ball, should you let it hit you and possibly end your football career or try to avoid it. Either way, a foul has still been committed as they have not won the ball.
    As you say Jack, the will to win is huge and I think 99% of fans would look for their own players to do everything they can to win. I feel the issue we have is that the officials should be full time, given the support and training they need to understand and get into the positions to see the best angles of 99% of fouls.
    We will never see 100% correct but thats what makes the game great, we always have that element to talk about after the game.
    Keep up the good work, I hope your recovery is going well.

  • Comment number 21.

    still not to sure where you stand on this after reading your blog ,you do have good points but try and look at football from a different angle , put yourself in a supporters shoes and imagine you aren't in the inner circle's of pro football and you only view the game from a stand and listen to the comments as you jump on the bus and listen to your personal stereo on the way home , i doesn't look good , take my word on it .
    to say all sports are different is correct but at a competitive level you win or you lose or draw and no matter your sport if you win by cheating then you are a cheat .
    '' player personality'' i'm not sure what you mean there , usually being a cheat in sport mirrors the character of the person who has cheated , i mentioned the golfing incident in a reply to your last blog , what makes golf different is that you really are playing against yourself , the course and the conditions and most of the time not a competitor , to cheat at golf is just cheating yourself , the game is hard enough to play without worrying about who your playing . i've played enough medals to know i don't care who i'm playing when i hit my first tee shot . just getting it down a fairway straight would do . the game of golf is full of integrity and sportsmen , just like most sports .
    then there's football , a beautiful game , when it's played with heart and flare but it just lets itself down when you have to win at all costs . to win by cheating is not winning . i've played different sports at a very reasonable level and i've witnessed cheating first hand , including football , it's just a virus that sweeps all sports to some degree but it does always come down to the individual unless you were part of the lions tour in 1974 , that was a sporting crime .
    may i just suggest though that the reason there is so much cheating , maybe thats too harsh a word , lets say controversial situations is that the stakes are so high , we seen to bleat about referee's and incidents more that a specific moment of skill and brillance , example , st mirren manager all but branded a falkirk player a cheat because he was awarded a free kick after a tackle by the st mirren captain , by your own admission you don't have to make contact to commit a foul , the goal that resulted from the free kick was fantastic , but the moment was lost after the game because of all the comments , that side of football is the sad part , it just sours the game .
    thierry henry , what a chance he had to show football in a different light , but the chance slipped through his fingers unlike the ball he delivered across the box.
    football will change in this country just shortly , wouldn't it be great if players and managers changed their attitude towards sportsmanship too .

  • Comment number 22.

    Ally9, please don't put a space before every punctuation mark. No one does that and it ruins readability. Capitalize first letter of every sentence if possible, and at every new topic, start a new paragraph.

    Very few people will read what you wrote, and you wrote a lot.

  • Comment number 23.

    Diving is cheating no matter how u look it. Diving is part of the game now a days theres no doubt about it but it doesnt make it right simple.
    ''truthful view on what players do to win matches''
    That just sums it up greatly

  • Comment number 24.

    imagine reason , you'll just have to excuse my poor writing skill , i'm not educated but i can read what i wrote and thats as good as it has to be . as for reading what i wrote , just take your time and i'm sure you'll get the just of it . i really couldn't care if nobody reads it but i am allowed to type my opinion on here , i'll try and take your points on board .
    question for you, i watched the semi final between barcalona and inter milan, what did you thing about the diving and time wasting and cheating , even the game in general as a spectacle .

  • Comment number 25.

    # 18.
    Still have a laugh over this. Don't know if the Edinburgh Evening News still has a late results edition on a Saturday. It was known as 'The Pink' and could be bought in the pubs after 6 o'clock.
    They ran a feature where players were asked their ten favourite things. You know the sort of thing - favourite meal, holiday, car etc. Eric Schaedler, the Hibs fullback, was featured one week and when asked his favourite actress named John McDonald.
    His dive for a penalty to 'earn' Rangers a 1-1 draw one Wednesday night right in front of us is still the worst example I have seen.
    Jack's blog is probably fair. The purist in me abhors diving. The fan says should Scotland have a chance at Euro qualification then, for any sake, fall down.

  • Comment number 26.

    Thank you for all the comments.

    I think it is clear that as always with football there is a wide range of opinion- on how many players dive and who these culprits may be.

    When I decided to tackle (fairly of course!) this topic, it was not to try and defend blatant diving or cheating as I disagree with this as much as anyone. It was however, an attempt to describe some of the gamesmanship that exists in football, and how players will use it to their advantage.

    I would hope that at a time when we would all like more transparancy from players, managers, referees etc then the honesty within the blog would be appreciated.

    Finally, BaldyHibby-"The Pink" was a regular purchase of mine in my Junior days as it had detailed reports of games at that level, great paper!

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi everyone, I need your help!
    My daughter is going away to St Andrews University in September and would love to get a signed photograph of Jack Ross to take with her! What can I say.....teenagers!!(Has to be in a Buddies strip. If Jack moves away my life will be hell!)This would make her day(& mine) Please help!! Thanks Carolyn

  • Comment number 28.

    This is why I follow the SPL . I do enjoy the tougher game in the SPL .
    Steve in Canada
    ps hope your rehab is going well !

  • Comment number 29.

    Re Comment 27, if you contact the club and leave details then I will organise it for you

  • Comment number 30.

    Re Comment 29.
    I will contact the club!
    This is fantastic news!! Can't thank you enough!
    She will be so thrilled!

  • Comment number 31.

    id just like to say about this that scottish football league doesnt have divers but if u watch the edinburgh derby that was on saturday u will see that hibs dived clearly in the box to win a penalty since they wer under pressure and as the game went on they were diving more and more but i think that must just be hibs though


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