Why we'll never eradicate simulation from our beautiful game
Simulation, diving, cheating. Call it what you want but in recent weeks, we have seen a high number of examples of what, some say, is the ugly side of the beautiful game.
Rangers' Sone Aluko (pictured) was banned for two matches for taking a tumble in the box which led to his team's opening goal from the penalty spot, in their 2-1 win over Dunfermline. The Glasgow side had been offered a two-match ban for Aluko from the SFA's compliance officer Vincent Lunny.
The club rejected the offer and so a three-man panel agreed with Lunny at a fast-track tribunal that Aluko was guilty of simulation and that the ban should be upheld. Rangers manager Ally McCoist voiced his concerns that Lunny is a lawyer and 'not a football man'.
But Stewart Regan, the SFA's chief executive defended the system on Twitter. 'There will always be those who do not like the outcome. But the new process is there to deal swiftly with those who have offended', Regan said.
On the issue of Lunny's background, Regan added: 'It is important to stress our compliance officer simply presents the case to a panel. The panel then consider the evidence and decide if a sanction is warranted'.
Accused of diving
The real problem the SFA have got themselves into relates to a previous decision this season, however. In October, Hibernian striker Garry O'Connor was offered the same punishment as Aluko after he was accused of diving in a 3-2 win over St Johnstone.
Hibs went through the exact same process as Rangers and the panel found him not guilty. This is where the SFA have set a dangerous precedent; I expect clubs to now go to the fast-track tribunal simply because O'Connor got away with his dive. Even if clubs know their player is guilty of simulation, they might well choose to refuse the compliance officer's offer as there is a chance the panel will see things differently.
In the Barclays Premier League this season, we have seen the FA act quickly to rescind red cards for Bolton's Gary Cahill and Everton's Jack Rodwell. Both of these decisions were the correct ones, in my opinion, however the FA do not have a fast-track procedure to address simulation like they do in Scotland.
Consider Sebastian Larsson's dive against Wolves. If this had occurred in the SPL, Larsson would definitely find himself on the receiving end of a ban. As it was, justice was served as Larsson missed his penalty kick and Wolves went on to defeat his Sunderland side.
Tottenham's Luka Modric also contributed to considerable debate as he went down easily in the box to earn his side a penalty against Stoke. Manchester City's David Silva was involved in a similar incident in his team's match against Chelsea on Monday night.
Conned the referee
The conundrum is that Silva didn't get a penalty where in my opinion he should have had one, and - again in my opinion - Modric conned the referee into giving Spurs a penalty.
Add in the fact that West Brom's Graham Dorrans was booked for being fouled in the box against Wigan, as his team chased a late equaliser, and we have a powder keg of weekend incidents.
But look, this is what makes football exciting. Without debate and different opinions, the game just wouldn't be the same. So if even with the benefit of seeing several replays, the general punters can't find agreement; can we really be too harsh on the referees?
Video technology is not something which has been mooted to help referees get tackles and hand ball decisions in the box correct.
If people have different views on whether it's simulation or not, then all that would happen with video technology is the ref would have another chance to see the incident. In my opinion, this would be wrong as it would slow the game down too much.
Stick with what we've got
I think goal-line video technology should be trialled but going further than this, such as halting play for penalty incidents would be wrong.
We should stick with what we've got: the ref has a penalty call to make in real time; of course he might consult his linesman; and then the public discusses whether it was the right call or not!
In the instances of Modric, Dorrans and Silva there is a theme; all of these players are small, tricky midfielders, and if they go to ground in the box at speed, it can often give the referee a difficult decision to make.
As we enter the festive period where picking up points becomes crucial to defining clubs' seasons, we can expect to see even more controversy in the coming weeks.
So why do players dive? Can it be compared to having a rush of blood, lashing out at your opponent and being sent off? I think it can. When Wayne Rooney kicked out at his opponent in Montenegro, was it through hatred? No, it was through frustration at how the match was developing for England.
Likewise when players take a tumble in the box, they don't hate their opposition and want to see them cheated. I imagine they dive because they see a chance, an opportunity to benefit their team.
Does the SFA's hard stance on simulation mean we are likely to see less of it in Scotland? I'm not convinced. Sone Aluko might see it as a chance worth taking again.
Sure it would earn him a reputation as a diver, but his fall against Dunfermline contributed to a Rangers victory while they have already won one match in his absence.
If as expected, Ally McCoist's men beat Inverness at home on Saturday, then Aluko might be left to wonder whether his ban was worth it, and also a trip worth taking again in the future.
I have to stress that I am not a fan of diving. I want to see the game played fairly and the SFA are right to take a stance on the issue of simulation. However, players have been told it is wrong long before now, and I am sure it will never be completely cut out of football.
Consider the Czech Republic's victory over Scotland at Hampden in September. Jan Rezek threw himself over Danny Wilson's foot to earn the Czechs a late penalty and a 2-2 draw which put them in pole position for a Euro 2012 play-off.
Then there was contact on Christophe Berra in the box and Scotland were denied a penalty of their own. Now picture a Scottish player diving to earn a penalty in a World Cup 2014 qualifier.
I would imagine even the fairest, most by the book of all Scots would turn and say 'well just ask the Czechs how they got to Euro 2012'.
By Scott Todd