Diving. It’s something growing up I used to think was limited to weak-kneed Iberians… and Harry Kewell. Then as Leeds hobbled around like a light-headed crash victim in shock for the past seven years, it was a sort of miniature revelation when I watched a recording of one of our cup matches against a top Premier League team (might’ve been Tottenham) and the commentator was shocked that Jermaine Beckford had stayed on his feet to shoot wide after a tiny bit of contact.

Suddenly it clicked: over the past few years I’d got steadily used to less and less diving. There was still a bit of girly tumbling, and Luci got penalised weekly for backing into players (to the point where I think he’s unfairly ignored by refs today when he’s fouled). But it was all under control. Unlike in the Premier League, it wasn’t the kind of football where an acceptable game-plan would involve the manager saying:

‘oof it up to the strikers and when one of our flick-ons actually works, get into the box and make it look like Skrtel stabbed you – just like in training remember!

I’ve been enjoying Neil Warnock’s column in The Independent lately. I’d read a few articles before but having it on the Leeds feed on NewsNow makes it a lot easier to stumble onto. This week’s article features your standard manager’s fair: “I never realised how big a club Leeds was…”; “The atmosphere really whetted the appetite…”; “I’ve got to know Claire, the cleaning lady…”. All good, positive stuff.

More interesting to me was the revelation that Warnock and Moyes both share my hobbyhorse of diving. Warnock wrote:

It was interesting hearing Davie Moyes talking about retrospective punishment for divers. I’ve been arguing for that for years. I do believe if it is proved beyond doubt a player dived he should be banned for six games – not fined, fining a player is no longer a deterrent. Cheats are so good at diving now, poor refs haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of spotting it.

There’s definitely a good case for this, when “proven beyond [reasonable] doubt” is stressed. It’s something I’ve privately moaned about for a few years now as well, and I bet I’m not alone! It’s been building up a head of steam lately, too, with an unlikely candidate for the Olympic Divers’ team like Gareth Bale igniting debate on footballing messageboards across the country. Bale’s dive late last month against Arsenal prompted the inveterate attention-seeker Graham Poll to write in the Daily Mail:

Replays showed that Bale had not been fouled but I would not blame Dean for being fooled; rather look at the conduct of Bale and plead that the FA introduce retrospective punishment for diving.

This would not need a change to laws of the game, nor permission from the IFAB or FIFA as it is up to each governing body to determine their own disciplinary code.

It’s something that’s blown up even more recently, with Luis Suarez doing his best impression of a giant rat being shot after possibly brushing the Arsenal keeper’s ankle. I’ve always said that if a penalty is unjustly rewarded the majority of times it will be missed. I’d love to see statistics on that because I’ve rarely seen an unjustly awarded penalty go in after being given – unless we’re the victims! Kuyt’s spot-kick was no different, and Liverpool went on to lose.

No doubt, Sepp Blatter would say it is part of the game: to be royally screwed over by injustice every time you come close to achieving, unless you have a remarkable rapport with referees like Alex Ferguson or enough money to buy a small country like Manchester City and Chelsea. As Leeds fans, we know more than most that feeling of injustice. I happen to like a subtle roughing up of the opposition, and I welcome added drama on the pitch. But like off-sides, I just think diving ruins what would otherwise usually be a good game of football.