Martin Smith column: Ban football’s divers – our kids and the old guard deserve better

Ashley Young has regularly been accused of diving throughout his career
Ashley Young has regularly been accused of diving throughout his career
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Like the witch-finders of the middle ages they will gather in secret to decide the fate of the simulators and shape-shifters.

Over a Monday morning latte or two, starting next season, a panel comprised of an ex-player, a referee and a former manager will meet to decide who was cheating in the Premier League at the weekend.

‘Simulation’ will be punished retrospectively - for those who dive to win penalties or get others sent off.

Fortunately the ducking stool and cleansing by fire are not among the punitive options the panel have at their disposal.

Why just divers though?

Ban defenders who hack down opponents then play to the gallery by doing a diving motion then feign fury and try to drag the (occasionally) stricken striker off the turf mouthing: ‘There’s nowt up wi ‘im ref!’.

Ban them alongside the divers and whiners and those who drop in the elbow and the butter-wouldn’t-melt defenders with blood on their studs.

And ban the referees who don’t spot any of the above.

That’s everybody sorted!

On a far more serious note there might be another ban on the way – heading a football damages your health.

Already in the US under-10s are not allowed to head the ball, while 11 to 13 year-olds have headers limited in training.

Links between heading footballs and later-life dementia have been tentatively established - despite our tendency to roll our eyes and say: “It never did me any harm”.

Well maybe it did.

Would anyone who ever played have given up heading a ball if they had known what it might lead to?

If you were a pro you got paid to do it, for the rest of us it was all part of the game, for many the best part.

But what do you tell your children and grandchildren now we know that heading a ball can sometimes be the equivalent of taking a right hook?

An eloquent exposition of this theme is expressed by Paul Fletcher and Colin Waldron in The New European talking about their generation’s attitude to the idea of compensation for they and their former Burnley team-mate Peter Noble who recently died after suffering from dementia for years.

“If any of our group were ever offered compensation we would pass it over to the bricklayers, mill workers, steel workers and coal miners who were not as fortunate as we were, and who paid our wages.”

No simulation there.