English Premier League referees have recently been told to take a tough line against cheats even at the risk of fingering an innocent victim. Guidelines say a referee “must be prepared to accept that he may occasionally punish a player when no simulation has occurred". Wrongly booking a suspect/innocent player is inevitable “occasionally”, according to advice handed out to English officials at a pre-season conference. But they are urged to be “strong” in a continuing campaign against what former top international referee and current UEFA Chief Refereeing Officer Pierluigi Collina (photo) once called “a cancer in football”.
Referees accept it is becoming ever harder to detect a deliberate dive when there has been little or no contact from an opponent. “Players have become skilled at disguising their intentional actions and, therefore, it is difficult to differentiate from a fair or foul challenge,” says a communique from Professional Game Match Officials. But the guidelines stress that - “in order to reduce the number” of cheating incidents - a referee “must be prepared to accept that he may occasionally punish a player when no simulation has occurred because such decisions are difficult to make”. The PGMOL advice to officials adds: “However, referees need to be strong, positive and confident... and take the appropriate action”. Officials have also been reminded to caution players who wave imaginary yellow cards in an attempt to get an opponent punished.