|Case Study #||2-2013|
|Date||29 Dec 2012|
|Competition||Barclays Premier League|
|Fixture/Result||Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1 Sunderland AFC|
|Referee/Badge||Martin Atkinson, FIFA|
|At Issue||Was Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale appropriately cautioned for diving?|
In the 80th minute of the match, Spurs winger Gareth Bale beat Sunderland defender Craig Gardner to the outside and penetrated into the penalty area. Gardner, knowing that he was beaten, held Bale with his right arm, clearly making contact. Bale then appears to drag his right foot – which may or may not have made contact with Gardner – and went to ground.
Not only did Referee Atkinson not award a penalty, he cautioned Bale for simulation, which is considered unsporting behavior under the Laws of the Game.
I believe the frames below reveal a couple of important observations:
- Gardner clearly makes contact with Bale with his right arm
- Bale appears to drag his right foot, seeking to draw a foul
Since Gardner makes contact with Bale, the Spurs winger cannot be guilty of simulation. Referee Atkinson may or may not have seen the contact, given that the contact was made on the goal side of the play and the referee was sprinting from behind to catch up.
In this case, Bale’s reputation for simulation (whether deserved or not) may have influenced Atkinson’s decision to issue the caution. It is just as likely, however, that the FA’s guidance to referees to come down harshly on simulation played the bigger role in the referee’s decision.
As a result of receiving his fifth caution of the season, Bale served a one-match suspension.
- Detecting simulation is a very tricky business, especially at the highest levels of the game
- The safer guidance for those of us at the lower levels is to be very certain of a player’s guilt before issuing a caution for simulation
I don’t mean to imply that Atkinson may have been uncertain in his decision. On the contrary, the frames indicate that he quickly reached a decision. My point is this: we’d do well to be 100% certain before taking similar action.