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Diving outrage is too late

It's hard to talk about diving without the terms "foreigners" and "creeping into our game" making their way into the conversation.

Luis Suarez dived in last week's game against StokePhotograph: Getty
Luis Suarez dived in last week's game against StokePhotograph: Getty

You end up awash in cliches and stereotypes, whichever side of the debate you're on. And the partisanship is by no means limited to the likes of Tony Pulis ("This is England. This isn't Europe.") Those on the other side of the barricade, the foreign-o-philes who remind us endlessly of the very English Francis Lee taking tumbles way back in the 1960s, are also somewhat deluded when they point to the likes of Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young and Gareth Bale as evidence that there is no real difference when it comes to diving between this sceptred isle and the rest of the footballing world.

There is a difference. Folks elsewhere tend to laugh at divers; over here, they tend to mount their moral high horse. The most recent to do so was Jim Boyce, a Fifa vicepresident, who said he "watched the latest [Luis] Suarez incident two or three times and to me it is nothing less than a form of cheating. It is becoming a little bit of a cancer within the game".

Quick digression on Boyce. The Uruguayan FA were incensed that he spoke out and rightly so. As Fifa vice-presidents go, Boyce sort of Forrest Gumped his way into his slot.

The four home nations are guaranteed a vice-president spot – and a place on the Executive Council – and every two years it rotates among them. It's one of the last vestiges of British privilege for having invented the game a few centuries ago.

It's Northern Ireland's turn, so Boyce gets to be a Fifa boss. He has no real relevance beyond Ulster football, yet now that he wears a Fifa hat, it makes his comments singling out an individual footballer entirely inappropriate.

And yet, in a slow news week, Boyce captured the "Barbarians at the Gate" zeigeist. Fact is, he's about 15 years too late. It's not as if no British players dived in the past, but it's also undeniable that things have changed. Talk to most foreign attacking players who came over after the Bosman ruling in 1996 and they'll tell you they adjusted their game when they arrived.

"Diving wasn't tolerated in England and, contrary to what some believe we weren't taught to cheat in Italy, but if there was contact, sure, you'd go down and maybe, at times, you'd look for contact," Paolo Di Canio said a while back. "But when I arrived, I quickly realised you couldn't do that. The crowd wouldn't stand for it, even your own fans, and neither would your team-mates, let alone the opponents. So you stayed on your feet."

That was then, this is now. If there has been a change in attitude, it's in the tolerance crowds and players show towards diving. You notice it at games, in post-game interviews and in TV analysis. Tribalism takes over. The response to Suarez's ridiculous dive against Stoke from many Liverpool fans wasn't embarrassment, it was anger at the fact that Gareth Bale's dive against Aston Villa didn't make comparable headlines. That's what's "creeping into the game". Not the diving, but the response to it. And sometimes a bit of outrage would be healthy.

Following the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, here comes the next logical step: the Independent Police Complaints Commission will launch an inquiry into possible crimes committed by police in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 supporters lost their lives.

According to the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report, 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or change negative comments regarding the policing that day. What this suggests is that previous inquiries were likely flawed and were based on attempts to sift through what were incomplete or, basically, false information.

Why dredge this up after more than 23 years? Why go rummaging in the past when most of those involved are either dead, retired or close to retirement?

The answer is that it's because our relationship with authority, especially law enforcement, is based on trust. And when that trust is broken – whether via incompetence on the day itself or malice and cowardice in the cover-up – the damage goes far beyond those who are directly involved. Allowing whatever misdeeds happened at Hillsborough and in its aftermath to go unpunished and uninvestigated undermines every policeman and policewoman going about their job everywhere in the land. It's a hard enough – and dangerous enough – job as it is, without having those you are supposed to protect and police not trusting you or your methods.

Pedro scored a hat-trick as Spain defeated Belarus 4-0, on Friday night, but apart from the odd dodgy internet stream, nobody in Spain actually saw the match. Why? Because the company holding the rights failed to reach an agreement with any Spanish broadcasters. Their demands started at €3 million (£2.4m) and, by kickoff, had fallen to £645,000, but still nobody was interested. Nor did any radio station bite on the broadcast rights, valued at £20,000. Instead, eight different radio stations offered commentary via the TVs in their hotel rooms in Minsk.

Blame the economic crisis in Spain? Sure. But it's still rather twisted that the world and European champions should be denied the airwaves in their own country. However, there's good news. The next set of qualifiers for a major competition – Euro 2016 – will have its broadcast rights sold centrally by Uefa. Which won't just mean more money all-around, but also that nobody will be denied the opportunity of watching their own national team play. The current laissez-faire jungle of international TV rights helps nobody, except the odd middleman and speculator.

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