Back in August, Jamie Walker, a winger for Scottish Premier League club Heart of Midlothian, won a penalty against Celtic. It was a dive, but, at the time, that didn't matter. The referee blew his whistle, pointed to the spot, and Walker stepped up and buried the penalty kick, tying the game 1-1. (Celtic would later win, 2-1.)
It was your run of the mill infuriating soccer moment, the kind in which a player fakes something (a foul or an injury) in order to deceive the referee into making an incorrect decision (blow a foul or issue a card). Fans complain, maybe fight. Life goes on, but they never seem to forget these bitter moments when the other team did something underhanded and the no good ref failed to see it.
But after the Hearts vs. Celtic game, something curious happened. The Scottish Football Association reviewed video of the incident, decided there had been no contact and that Walker had indeed flopped. Then, citing a new rule designed to eliminate simulation in Scottish soccer, the FA banned Walker for two games. Hearts later appealed the ban and lost.
On Tuesday, the Times of London published a report suggesting the English FA have been impressed by the Scottish approach and are now considering a similar rule in England: "The governing body is to send officials on a fact-finding mission to Scotland to study the rule there, which stipulates a two-match ban for any player who wins a significant advantage for their team by tricking the referee by diving or simulation, and will explore introducing a similar rule to the English game."
The rule change would likely be welcome by most Premier League fans who deal with diving on a weekly basis—in addition to all the American haters who complain that diving is evidence soccer is "soft." Currently, referees can book players for simulation—as Mike Jones did over the weekend when Swansea's Ki Sung-yueng dove in his team's 4-0 loss to Arsenal—but there is no regulation in place to punish players who successfully fool the match officials.
Even if the English FA don't adopt a similar rule, diving in soccer could be on the way out. As I reported in November, FIFA will begin large scale testing of its new video replay technology in 2017. Preliminary results suggest players tend to behave better when they know an official is watching video in real time. Should FIFA move forward with the replay technology, it could go beyond simply eliminating diving; it could stop players from arguing with match referees altogether.