Crackdown on conmen can mean rough justice

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Milos Krasic’s ban for diving has been widely praised, but TEAMtalk’s Jon Holmes argues against harsh retrospective punishments for cheating.

The left leg buckled, the right leg followed, two arms went out to break the fall and Milos Krasic was grounded. The Juventus midfielder quickly raised his arm in an appeal to the referee, and waited. The con was on.

The common parlance is to suggest that even Tom Daley would have been proud of the dive, but that is to disparage Great Britain’s teenage sporting sensation. Krasic’s approach was fine, but his take-off lacked technique and there was no grace in his flight whatsoever.

Still, the Serbian’s tumble had the desired effect on the judge, referee Andrea De Marco, who promptly pointed to the penalty spot.

But the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) were not so generous after taking a second look at the incident from Sunday’s Serie A clash at Bologna.

On Tuesday, Krasic was handed a two-match ban by an FIGC disciplinary commission who decided he had deliberately attempted to deceive De Marco at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.

Krasic fell to the ground in the penalty area in an incident involving Daniele Portanova and despite protests from the home players, De Marco awarded Juve a spot-kick (which was missed by Vincenzo Iaquinta).

Video replays showed Krasic took a tumble after he had already glided past Portanova, who appeared to make no contact with the Serbia international.

A debate over the incident then erupted like Vesuvius in the Italian media, and the suspension subsequently slapped on Krasic rules out him of Saturday night’s big game between AC Milan and Juve at the San Siro.

Juve have been quick to defend Krasic and are appealing against the ban, which is the sixth such punishment to have been dished out by the FIGC since they began to use video evidence to punish players for ‘unsporting behaviour’ in incidents missed by officials at the time. Adriano was among those to fall foul of the authorities in previous seasons for a notorious dive which won Inter Milan a penalty in a 3-1 win at Roma in 2007; the Brazilian striker did not appeal his two-match ban. Alberto Gilardino received a similar rap in 2008, although his ‘crime’ was deliberate use of the arm to score a goal for Fiorentina at Palermo.

There appears to be little doubt that Krasic intentionally dived but if referee De Marco had come to that decision at the time, a yellow card would have been shown and Bologna would have rightly been the beneficiaries of that decision (no penalty to face, and the opposition player cautioned). Instead, Krasic has now been given a significantly stricter punishment, and AC Milan and Cesena benefit as they will not have to come up against in-form Krasic in the coming weeks.

It is also worth noting the climate in which Krasic has been punished. Relations between Italy and Serbia are frayed as a result of the abandoned Euro 2012 qualifier in Genoa earlier this month, and several Italian journalists directly referenced Krasic’s nationality in their attempts to have him ‘brought to justice’. Many would argue that had an effect on the FIGC charging and banning the player.

TEAMtalk readers gave their views on the Krasic incident in the Comments section of Tuesday’s story, with most supporting the FIGC commission’s decision to ban the 25-year-old.

Yet there were also signs of the potential dangers such a system of retrospective punishment by video for cheating might have, were it to be introduced into the English game.

After Manchester United fan ‘boxxcar’ claimed Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh deserved a similar ban, Newcastle supporter ‘toon1991’ hit back by suggesting Nani for the same. Then Man City fan ‘citydub’ claimed Gunners past and present were guilty of cheating, prompting ‘tdk010’ to quickly demand consistency of punishment “across the board”.

The comments quickly demonstrate how the diving label sticks fast to certain players and even their clubs after a perceived offence.

Chamakh was accused of diving in Arsenal’s recent 2-1 win over Birmingham. His defence was that Scott Dann had “definitely” made contact with him and thereafter “it was all about the ref”. For some – even respected pundits – being touched gives a player license to go down and appeal for a penalty. For others, minimal contact should be permitted. Imagine the outcry if an FA disciplinary panel equivalent to that of the FIGC had ruled that Chamakh had dived against Blues and banned him. You need only recall the fuss in August of last year when UEFA suspended Eduardo with ‘deceiving the referee’ after suggestions of a simulated dive against Celtic in Champions League qualifying. The ban was later overturned on appeal when the Gunners produced video evidence of contact, a view supported by the match referee.

Diving is the most common form of deception in football, but there are numerous other ways in which players try to hoodwink officials. Use of the arm (such as Gilardino, and of course Thierry Henry in the France v Republic of Ireland World Cup 2010 play-off); feigning injury; pretending the ball has or has not crossed the goal-line; even the pretend flourishing of an imaginary card in an attempt to influence a referee could be seen as ‘unsporting behaviour’. In each case, those asked to interpret the action – either the referee or a video panel – must decide whether instinct or fraud was the motive. One hopes the principle of ‘innocent before proven guilty’ – the basis of any fair legal system, as proposed in England by Sir William Garrow over 200 years ago – would be adhered to, but in the face of a media frenzy around such cases, there would also be fears that certain players were being found guilty by reputation.

One man never shy to give an opinion is Ian Holloway, who would like to see technology employed in football’s major competitions. His suggestion is to give the fourth official (already handed extra powers in the Premier League this season) access whenever possible to video replays, and on this occasion the Blackpool manager speaks sense. If video can be used to decide on an incident within seconds of the event by an appointed official, why delay the process by 48 hours just so an under-pressure panel can review it instead?

Football could still be made fairer, and it is disappointing that FIFA and the International FA Board are so reluctant to even consider conducting experiments with video technology which could help improve the game. The FIGC will no doubt continue to use replays to make examples of cheats and con-artists in the Italian game but there must be better ways in the 21st century to administer swift and appropriate justice for all.

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