The Football Association has voted in favour of introducing retrospective bans for players who dive or feign injury from next season.
The new offence of ‘successful deception of a match official’ is based on a law already used in Scotland and was approved at the FA’s annual general meeting at Wembley on Thursday.
Incidents will be reviewed by a panel comprised of an ex-manager, ex-player and an ex-referee, who will watch the footage independently. If they are unanimous in believing a player deceived a match official, the sanction will be a two-match ban.
This process is similar to the one already used for red-card offences which were missed at the time but caught on camera, and the cases will be fast-tracked.
In a statement, the FA said: “Although attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled is a cautionable offence for unsporting behaviour, the fact that the act of simulation has succeeded in deceiving a match official and, therefore, led to a penalty and/or dismissal, justifies a more severe penalty which would act as a deterrent.”
If a player admits to a charge of successfully deceiving an official, or is found to have done so, any yellow or red card given to an opposing player, as a result of the deceit, can be rescinded.
The new rule will apply across English football and has been supported by the English Football League, the League Managers’ Association, the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Simulation has been an issue in the game for years and there have been a number of notable cases this season, including Robert Snodgrass’ dive to earn a penalty for Hull against Crystal Palace and other alleged incidents involving the likes of Leroy Sané, Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford.
The Scottish Football Association introduced its ‘rule 201’ in 2011 and spent several years trying to convince FIFA that is was not going too far in taking decision-making away from officials on the day – something world football’s governing has traditionally been very reluctant to do.
However, recent moves to introduce goal-line technology and video assistant referees indicate that even FIFA realises match officials need more help and supporters want better decisions.
With England and Scotland having permanent seats on FIFA’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board, bans for divers could soon become a worldwide policy.
The retrospective punishment has not eradicated diving in Scotland since it was introduced in 2011 but it has occasionally provided some semblance of justice.
Rangers winger Sone Aluko became the first player to be punished in December 2011 after winning a penalty against Dunfermline, but Gers boss Ally McCoist raged against the decision, saying: “The three gentlemen on the panel have effectively called my player a cheat and a liar, neither of which he is.”
There were only two players punished for simulation in that first season, Aluko and Aberdeen’s Peter Pawlett, who became something of a repeat offender, receiving another ban in May 2013 after winning a penalty that effectively consigned Dundee to relegation.
Three players have been punished this season, including Hearts winger Jamie Walker following an incident on the opening day against Celtic, and Falkirk’s Myles Hippolyte, whose acrobatic fall against Dunfermline prompted the Fife club to highlight the video footage on social media.
The retrospective approach works both ways though. Walker is among the players to have had yellow cards for simulation overturned following an appeal.
The FA has also agreed to implement the most radical reforms to how it is run in decades. Championed by FA chairman Greg Clarke, the reforms mean the governing body will now meet the new governance code introduced by sports minister Tracey Crouch.
This will enable the FA to continue to receive public funding for grassroots projects and bidding for events, as well as answering critics who doubted its ability to modernise itself.
Already unanimously backed by the board and council, the reforms have now cleared the final hurdle of receiving the support from 75% of the FA’s 1,100 shareholders and will come into force on 27 July.
The key reforms are streamlining the board from 12 members to 10, with three seats reserved for women from 2018, the introduction of term limits and a revamped council.
In an FA statement, Clarke said: “This is a significant moment and a very positive step. Good corporate governance is essential for any successful organisation and these new reforms have the interests of football at their core. They will benefit all of English football.
“This is a good start but we don’t just want to be compliant with Sport England’s code for sports governance, we want to go beyond that. Our aim is to make English football for all and a more inclusive and diverse game.
“This has been a collaborative process from the start and we could not have done this without the full support of the board, the council and the shareholders. We have all come together for the good of football and I am grateful for the help, encouragement and advice of all stakeholders within the game.”
As well as the changes at board level, 11 new members will be added to the council, football’s so-called parliament, to make it more diverse and inclusive.
All council members will also have to be actively involved in the organisations they represent, so there will be no further appointments of life or senior vice-presidents, and those groups will lose their voting rights. The limit of three three-year terms will apply to both the board and council.