Niasse suspension for deception highlights confusion over new rule

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/23 23:03:39

The biggest can of worms in England has now been opened in the Premier League following the FA's decision to charge Everton striker Oumar Niasse under its new laws punishing "successful deception of a match official." Niasse was retrospectively judged to have dived for his side's penalty against Crystal Palace on Saturday, and will now miss matches against Southampton this weekend and West Ham United next weekend.

The Senegal striker was charged on Tuesday and given until the end of the day to appeal. Then the appeal was denied and he was charged with diving and subsequently banned for two games on Wednesday. This is uncharacteristically efficient for an organization that has been widely criticized for its dawdling on recent internal enquiry and out of context with the current process for disciplinary hearings.

Everton manager David Unsworth has called the ban a "dangerous precedent," and while you could dismiss his upset at losing a player who has been one of the few bright points of a disappointing season, he also has a point when he says there was contact between Niasse and Palace defender Scott Dann. It may have been minimal but that is not the issue. Niasse went down under contact from Dann and referee Anthony Taylor gave a penalty.

Dann, for his part, was furious ­after the game, saying that Niasse had "conned the referee," while Niasse had said that he would be "shocked" if he were charged "because there is contact."  The FA's independent panel, consisting of one ex-match official, one ex-manager and one ex-player, agreed with Dann.  

Since being introduced in May, the new law has only been used three times across the four top divisions in England. Carlisle United's Shaun Miller was the first case following a game against Wycombe Wanderers in October. Miller was judged to have successfully deceived a match official in winning a penalty that was subsequently converted in a game that finished 3-3.

The only other player to have been charged was Bristol City's Bailey Wright. Wright's case of deception related to him being pushed over by Fulham's Aboubakar Kamara when the sides met earlier this month. Wright was banned for two games and Kamara's automatic three-match suspension for violent conduct was then rescinded.

These cases cover the range of the new law. A player has to have deceived the referee, and that deception has to have resulted in either a penalty and/or a player from the opposing team sent off. Credit to the FA and to the 92 clubs to agreeing to the measures, but it seems that it's all still too open to interpretation, even with the need for a unanimous decision from the independent panel.

If simulation to con referees is such a problem then surely more players have dived than Niasse in the 120 Premier League games that have been played this season. There have been two who have come close to being charged with diving to win penalties but were not charged: Watford's Richarlison and Manchester City's Bernardo Silva.

Both those incidents were in the same grey area as Niasse on Saturday: There was clearly contact but they were "soft" penalties, yet for some reason neither of these was deemed to be deception of the referee. The FA needs to explain its decisions transparently, or there will be no such thing as a clear penalty.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer.


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