An Arsenal fans view on how to improve football: Part 1 – How to stop cheaters and divers

A Gooners view on why football deterrents work when used and a reason why they are fooishly not used nearly enough

Part One, about cheating players. by Jon Fox

My fellow Gooners, I have been following top level football and especially our club, way back since 1958 and in that long time have seen a moral sea change in football, losing respect for   honesty and encouraging win-at-all-costs attitudes and general CHEATING.

Cheating by almost everyone involved within the game, from players, coaches and managers, owners, football bodies such as FIFA and UEFA.

I will exclude, for now, refs and VAR officials, as my views on both are well known on here and I intend to write separate articles on both, shortly.

Only fellow older fans such as Ken 1945, Grandad, Jax and a number of other fans will be able to recall what football was like when I began attending back in 1958. Indeed, a very few can go even back further than I, and I look forward to reading their comments.

I would argue that simply being biased toward one’s own team is cheating our own individual honesty, but that is human nature, incurable and except in our double standards expectations of others, does little harm to football itself. At least not directly – though it could sensibly be argued it has a longer-term malign influence.

I start with what may be thought of little consequence by some, but which is so common that is it hardly noticed, if in small amounts. Yes, stealing yards, often very many yards at throw ins. Players know pretty much exactly where the ball goes out of play but very few ever throw in from that point but routinely steal as many yards as they think they will get away with, on throw ins.

Players nearly always also know if they or the opponent has put the ball out of play. Not always, I accept, but in the main, they know.  But, it is common for both sides to appeal for throw ins and often the cheating side’s player holds on to the ball to prevent the honest side’s player from taking that throw quickly and aiding their own team.

Then we have corners and free kicks, especially free kicks in a   possible scoring position. Again, players generally know whether they or the opponent has touched the ball behind the goal line for a goal kick or a corner. And mostly, not always, but mostly, players know if they have fouled or if they have been fouled.  But the urge to cheat is all powerful, fuelled by many factors, the pressure to win at all costs, the fact that being honest is looked upon as being naive and somewhat foolish rather than laudable, by so many, including teammates, fans and managers.

Huge money and win bonuses are another factor in win-at-all-cost attitudes which lead to cheating.  I would also add modern society’s whole nature, which is that so often that you are considered a naive fool, not a person with morals and principles, if you don’t routinely cheat.

Pundits talk of a professional foul. They mean ‘he cheated’, but they don’t dare put it that way. Hearing themselves out loud supporting cheating, in this age of virtue signalling, is a step too far even for well-known pundits. So, they downgrade cheating to being “a professional foul”. They fool only themselves.

That allows them to condone cheating but not to SAY that word.  I may be in a minority on this but I have long maintained that deliberately  pressurising refs and sometimes asst refs, both on touch line and by managers – as even our own MA among countless others, due to the fourth official in the technical area or close by it – has been done by players, though a few half-hearted attempts to prevent this are now, finally, being instigated.

I would make a red card mandatory for all backchat to refs, with no exceptions. Though I would allow the captain (and ONLY him) to approach and ask respectfully at all times, why the ref gave that decision. A one match ban would follow for backchatting the ref.

A limit, to be discussed further, on the number of times the captain could approach would need to be decided upon.

Next and worse of all by far, is diving. I have said for ages going back very many years that the football authorities are as weak as water on diving. My solution, which would assuredly cure the problem for ever within a few weeks is this: For diving, where the ref is certain it’s a dive and VAR, if necessary, confirms it, would be a mandatory straight red card followed by a mandatory six match Prem ban.

If it is missed by both ref and VAR, as we all know many things are – in particular the scandalous  failure to send off Onana  at Man Utd the other night against Wolves – then after the game a chosen panel of five, comprising of ex-players and refs, would sit weekly to decide if that player dived or did not.

Also a  month’s full salary complete stoppage which would go in its entirely to a charity of the opposition’s choice, with a personal written letter of apology and a public admission of cheating on  such as Sky or TNT or both, and a listing and shaming on a weekly published list of shame, to be displayed extremely prominently, including on the match screen, at least twice, by all Prem league clubs,  and mentioned on TV. It would be helpful if all national newspaper would publish this list on their back pages too and to do it weekly.  Public humiliation will ensure diving is not repeated.

For repeated offences by the same player, I would double the match ban and keep all other punishments as they are.  It would never happen a third time, I can guarantee that.  YES,  IT IS  DRACONIAN BUT IT WOULD END DIVING FOR GOOD.

Either you intend to cure it, or you keep silly slap on the wrist mere yellow cards and continue effectively condoning shameful, disgraceful CHEATING. Your choice, fellow Gooners!

My friends, I value ethics in our most popular global sport, and would do whatever it takes to return the game to the comparative honesty it had when I was young. Many former lifelong football older age former fans I know personally, have long given up following it because of the disgusting cheating, and obscenity of ridiculous salaries awarded. I will shortly discuss the obscenity of salaries, but this is piece is on cheating.

I definitely do not expect many to agree with my admittedly draconian solutions given here. But I am hopeful that this piece, the first of two specifically on cheating, will attract some original thoughts and sensible comments. Part Two will follow soon.


Jon Fox


  1. Good idea, but all major European competitions should implement it first. The rest of the world would likely follow suit

  2. Jon, this has been my thoughts for decades. It’s great that you put it in public words. Thanks.

  3. How I long for the old days in respect of fair play and no diving to cheat your way to a free kick or penalty or win. It has become a disgusting aspect of our sport because it seems players and managers accept it as “part of the game”. Win, get players booked unjustly – or sent off – anything goes.

    Even our great player Saka is not adverse to this, going down, “badly injured” regularly. He is such a terrific player and very likeable but for me this aspect tarnishes his game.

    Peter Olsen – fan and spectator since 1947!

    1. Peter, a most heartening and realistic post to read.


      Sadly though, younger folk, have grown up in a world where kids are routinely spoiled,foolishly pampered and hardly ever properly disciplined, and where proper punishments for delinquent behaviour are largely abolished.
      This is fake liberalism, which prefers freeing the badly behaved individual at the cost of IMMENSE harm to society(the rest of us).

      The mistaken belief that such lack of discipline is “liberal” and freeing, is the exact opposite of true liberalism for society at large and has been an historic error by so called liberal thinkers dating from the early 1960’s onwards.

      We are now reeping the torrent of bad behaviour that this stupid lack of disciplining youngsters has brought to all we do ,includuing top level football and its young men.
      IF ONLY younger people had the worldly life experience and could learn the lessons of history’s gross mistake.

      Those same”younger” people are now the ones running football policy authorities and lacking the sense and courage to even TRY turning back the clock.

      Weep with me Peter!

    2. Peter, I thought I was an Arsenal ‘oldtimer’, you’ve beaten me by 10 years!!!
      I do agree with your comments but alas it is too late to turn back the clock now that money is dominating football. It’s scandalous that most of the top clubs in the EPL are owned by Americans or Arabs. They throw money around like confetti with average players becoming multi-millionaires at the start of their careers and will kiss any badge as long as the price is right. Football is no longer a sport it has become a business first and foremost.

  4. Fully agree with most of your comments Jon except maybe the 6 match ban for diving. A red card and a 3 match ban plus, say, a week’s (or 2) salary donated to a named charity would do the trick imo. Hit the cheaters where it hurts most, the pocket. Diving and feigning injury are areas that sicken me, the other being deliberate violent conduct that can end a player’s career. At the moment the punishment is simply a red card and 3 match ban which is ludicrous. There has to be a monetary sanction on the player depending on the severity of the injury inflicted or even a criminal charge.

    If anything, cheating in football is getting worse and unfortunately I now see it happening in the women’s game. Imo any radical change must come from the main governing body, FIFA which gives me no hope of a change to the status quo!!

    1. I have been actively watching football since 2006 so it’s current state regarding cheating is more or less what it has always been my entire life . It seems to me that these acts of cheating,as you’ve alluded to,have been accepted as part of the ‘football culture’ by players,managers and fans. This brings us to the question,how do you change culture? This is a question that has been asked in all facets of life throughout the ages. The punishments and penalties can help to curtail it for sure but they need to be accompanied by other measures. Perhaps there should be some kind of reward for players who don’t cheat and embody honesty ; essentially incentivize honesty.

      In addition to that, it is easier to fix an unwanted behaviour in the very young. A six year old would be more willing to change than the 25 year old professional. The six year old is also relatively ‘untainted’ by the cheating culture.Perhaps those who run football academies and train the young should teach them the right way of playing the game. If this was embraced globally,cheating would be considerably reduced in a decade when these young players become professionals.Thanks for bringing this up-it’s not spoken about enough.

      1. This wasn’t intended as a reply to Andrew. Should have used the main comment section as a contribution to the discussion.

      2. Onyango I dont know in which generation you are, though very plainly you are immensely mature in mind,but if you are willing, I would like to correspond privately by email or phone with you.

        I have great admiration for your intellect and humanity and consider you very wise and a valuable asset to both JA and almost certainly to the life you live and people you know personally.
        I very rarely write in this personal way . but if, and only if, you are willing, I would like to make that personal contact with you, via Ad Pat.
        If you prefer not to , then of course I quite understand. Either way, I relish reading your consistently wise posts.

  5. Good article Jon and I feel it needs closer examination and discussion, as some of it seems to be linked to the “good old days” as my Dad used to call them!!

    1. Throw ins : This pinching of yards has been going on for as long as I can remember.
    I was told, when running the line, to place myself in front of where I believed the ball went out, ensuring the player couldn’t pass me and gain those extra yards… a very simple and effective way of stopping this.

    2. Appealing to the referees : Once again, not a new thing, but I do agree it has become ridiculous. It was man united who first started crowding around the referees and, of course, this was allowed to continue as manure were untouchable.
    Of course, the referees do have the power to book anyone who does this.

    3. Win bonuses : Again, not a new thing in football and I can remember games when the likes of Leeds and Chelsea turned games into war zones in order to win a game.
    We have no idea what “extras” are in player’s contracts, but incentives have been part of players contracts since way back.

    4. Referees backchat : Here you and I agree that it is wrong, but, due to the weakness of our PGMOL, they allow it to continue…. at least until this season it seems.
    Referees (again) have it in their power to do something about it – foul and abusive behaviour warrants a red card, so why don’t they use it?

    Diving : No argument here whatsoever and every club is guilty of it.
    How to stop it, however is another matter.
    If VAR couldn’t get the decision right in the United / Wolves game, what chance is there that they can spot actual diving… or actually have the bottle to call it out?
    When you hear the United manager saying it wasn’t a penalty, what hope is there that other managers will condemn diving by one of their own players?
    Plus.. it is a matter of opinion, rather than a rule of the game and, having seen such biased referees as Riley and Dean in the past, this gives yet another opportunity to be “selective” in their decisions.

    Anyway Jon, enjoyed the read and hope you enjoy my comments to it… the good old days are part of every generations thinking I do believe.

    1. YES Ken I do agree with pretty much all you say and endorse the paragraph (following your point 4) very much. That is why i would use a panel of five after game, where the ref and VAR fails to see obvious diving.
      I would also demote refs and VAR who make scandalously inept decisions like the Wolves non awarded penalty in that United game.
      Must say that Webb has made a promising start but he needs to keep it up and increase intolerance of all cheating and all inept refs/ VAR too. I will be giving far more in my Part Two which I send into Pat later tomorrow..

  6. For diving I would hit the players in the pocketbook.

    Don’t stop the match, VAR can review and make a decision while the match continues.

    Afterwards, a panel of ex-players and refs should verify it was a dive, and the player is punished.

    1st offense 1 weeks salary 1 match ban
    2nd offense 2 weeks salary 2 match ban
    3rd offense 3 weeks salary 3 match ban
    Let each offense increase fines & bans

    Let it continue as such until the player changes their behavior or isn’t eligible to play.

    The message will get through fairly quickly and diving will cease.

    1. Durand, do you honestly think those punishments are tough enough? I dont think so, not nearly enough and I want to stop it , quickly , decisively and once and for all.
      We need REAL deterrents with teeth, not half measues, which IMO yours are.

      And three weeks salary ban is effectively NOTHING to multi millionaires. Banning from football for longer, rather than paltry fines, is far more likely to work the trick.

    2. I don’t think the league should necessarily be privy to the details of each player’s contract – if there have to be fines, it should be the same for everyone. Basically the best way to ensure as many people as possible follow the rules has to be by giving out longer bans for breaking them.
      I don’t think fines are really the way to go – I’m not exactly sure the league should have the authority to take money from people as a punitive measure at all tbh. Why should they be entitled to money? Where does that money go?

      1. Davi I DO take your point that people earnings ,in an ideal world, should be private.

        But top grade football and its obscenely overpaid players live in a totally different world and have a lifestyle in consequence that is almst on a “different planet” from the good folk that follow football

        For that reason I take a different view from you about fining a montns salary , no matter what that salary is.
        To be clear , I am in no way a socialist and do not subscribe to any person not being to earn to the limits of their own ability.
        But, equally, for sheer fairness to all in football, the magnitude of top level player wages badly needs to be culled. It is leading us steadily and increasingly quickly to ruin. When we see the ludicrous fees paid for not even proven top level players and their salaries of such harmful foolishness, then to my practical and logical thinking mind, football finances need to be FORCED to change direction and to do so urgently.
        Those fines OUGHT definitely to go to charities, and never back to football itself,IMO..

        1. Yes, well, fines are an ingrained part of the game now – I’m not sure I think they should be, as discussed, but i don’t think it’s the biggest problem. I think we just have a disagreement about them being aligned with salaries, but that’s OK.
          With regard to what happens with the money – unfortunately, we know that it wouldn’t go to charities (which are often somewhat corrupt themselves). Another problem with monetary punishments is that you have to believe the body collecting the fine is not corrupt, and the body overseeing them is not corrupt etc etc. History tells us that’s very unlikely to be the case continuously.

          (Haven’t mentioned, but I’m glad to see you back btw – another interesting article!)

  7. Arsne Wenger once said ” If I die, i am going ask God where the referees are before choosing between heaven and Hell”

    The premier league is the best league in the world, but the officiating is littered with extreme disgusting decisions.

    Am in agreement with most of the suggestions put forward by the writer, but can the FA or PGMOL find the will to atleast consider, nah
    What the FA needs to do immediately is enforcing existing rules, refresher courses, mentoring the whole officiating process while getting out side help, rehiring referees who fails to get the basics rights will only leads to more frustrations.

  8. Too harsh re approaching refs, psychologically it’s never advisable to keep what’s eating you inside you have to let it out albeit harmlessly which i think the players and managers are doing so match bans for back chats with ref sis not a welcome idea it encages morale and passion for the game.on diving-the so called “not harsh enough consequences” are clearly working cos we barely see players dive lately, so no need to change what is working.

  9. Agree with all the issues identified.
    On diving, I can’t agree with the “draconian” response – I fully agree with the red card and subsequent ban, and also with the idea of retrospective bans, but anything more than than is too far.
    Cheating in a sport is distasteful, but forcing people to humiliate themselves publicly for it would be even worse – especially if there’s any room for reasonable doubt. Can you imagine someone being forced to apologise publicly when they didn’t even dive or maybe fell awkwardly because they genuinely expected contact to be made?
    Anyway I think enforcing red cards and retrospective bans would be more than enough to get the desired effect, and it would be far more humane.
    On the rest, I agree. They should be aiming for the referees and officials to be respected to the degree they are in sports like rugby. They get it wrong sometimes, but they do their best and should be treated as the essential part of the game that they are.

  10. I think professional fouls are fair and very much part of the game. Diving is cowardice and cheating and players known for it should be given the boo of shame for as long as they play in the league.

    The issue of these cheatings is us along with the media being the enablers. How can we asked to give respect to incompetent and biased referees and expect anything to change?

    1. HH, as a matter of interest ,if you had to describe a professional foul in other words , how would YOU describe it?
      MY view as stated is that it is cheating. What is YOUR view?

      And as you consider it fair, what is fair about it, as I and others would love to know your explanation, I believe?

      We are all, presumably, serious about ridding our game of cheats and cheating. Perhaps I ought not to assume that though , in your case . Which is WHY I ask.

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