English FA to follow Scotland and hand ban to divers

Ross County's Alex Schalk was given a two-match ban for his dive to win a penalty against Celtic. Pic: SNS/Rob Casey
Ross County's Alex Schalk was given a two-match ban for his dive to win a penalty against Celtic. Pic: SNS/Rob Casey
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The Football Association has approved a proposal which will see retrospective bans handed out to players who dive or feign injury in English football from next season.

The new offence of ‘successful deception of a match official’ is based on a law already used in Scotland and was approved at the FA’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Gavin McCafferty, examines how the system has worked in Scotland:

When Ross County striker Alex Schalk threw himself to the ground under no contact whatsoever to win his side a late penalty against Celtic last month, everyone who saw the damning footage knew what was coming next.

Schalk’s actions helped County claim an unlikely point from a 2-2 draw but their relegation rivals could take some consolation in the fact that the Scottish Football Association would issue him with a two-match ban.

The retrospective punishment has not eradicated diving since it was introduced in 2011 but it has occasionally provided some semblance of justice.

The SFA took four years to convince FIFA to allow it to introduce the system amid the world governing body’s reluctance to overturn referee’s decisions. Its disciplinary Rule 201 states that: “No player shall cause a match official to make an incorrect decision and/or support an error of judgement on the part of a match official by an act of simulation which results in that player’s team being awarded a penalty kick and/or an opponent being dismissed and/or any other substantial advantage being gained.”

Issues are rarely as cut and dried as Schalk’s offence. The first player to be cited, Hibernian forward Garry O’Connor, launched himself into the air after appearing to initiate contact with a St Johnstone defender. It was so blatant that his assistant manager, Billy Brown, admitted on television that it was a dive, but a independent three-man panel cleared the former Scotland striker.

Rangers winger Sone Aluko became the first player to be punished in December 2011 after winning a penalty against Dunfermline, but Gers boss Ally McCoist raged against the decision, saying: “The three gentlemen on the panel have effectively called my player a cheat and a liar, neither of which he is.”

There were only two players punished for simulation in that first season, Aluko and Aberdeen’s Peter Pawlett, who became something of a repeat offender, receiving another ban in May 2013 after winning a penalty that effectively consigned Dundee to relegation.

Three players have been punished this season, including Hearts winger Jamie Walker following an incident on the opening day against Celtic, and Falkirk’s Myles Hippolyte, whose acrobatic fall against Dunfermline prompted the Fife club to highlight the video footage on social media.

The retrospective approach works both ways though. Walker is among the players to have had yellow cards for simulation overturned following an appeal.