False claims in football: cheating or a must?

By Walter Broeckx

Is football still a sport?

That is a question I asked myself this weekend. It was after I had finished my own game. And for a few reasons I now am working as an assistant referee, and well must say I enjoy doing it and according to the game assessors and my promotions I’m not that bad at it.

Last weekend I had a game together with an excellent ref and another excellent assistant on the other side (we form a team each week so I know he is really good and young). And well sometimes you have such games. Two teams near the top of their division, on a good field, in excellent conditions. Two teams trying to play a technical game. And a referee team that was just excellent on the day. A draw after 90 minutes and both teams hugging each other and hugging the referee and assistants.

After the game in the dressing room we talked about the game of course and it struck us that as well me and the other assistant and the ref couldn’t remember a game with that many offside decisions. My right arm was painful from raising the flag all the time. Both teams playing with a striker who was always running just on/offside so it was a question of being very alert.

But the decisions were always correct and greeted with acceptance from attackers. No arms waving around, no dissent. The players just felt that we were doing a great job. The wait and see was done almost to perfection. Thumps up on many occasions from both teams. If we would have been footballers we would have felt like we had scored a hattrick. After such a  game you really feel great as a ref or assistant.

What also struck me was that the players almost never made wrong claims. How many times do we see football players kicking the ball out of play and then raising their arm to claim the ball was theirs to throw in?  We don’t accept diving to win a penalty and call it cheating. But claiming the ball for a throw in that a player has kicked out …isn’t that also a form of cheating?

Well it is. Players do this to get the decision going their way. One could say that diving for a penalty is far worse than making a false claim for a throw in. But making a false claim is something that is bad for the game.

I see it all the time at the Emirates when the ball goes out of play. And both attacker and defender claiming the ball by raising their arms…one of them is wrong or is …trying to cheat. And from a distance you cannot say who is right or wrong.

It is cheating because the players know damn well who was the last one to touch it. And yet the player who played the ball out will claim it without hesitation. The problem for the assistant or ref is that when he makes a decision (and let us assume it is the correct decision as he also can make a mistake) half of the crowd will not believe it. The reason is that because of their ‘own’ player claiming the ball, the decision should go to ‘our’ team. Because we believe our player more than the opponent and more than the ref or assistant.

So making a false claim is discrediting the assistant/ref his decision. I also do wonder why do players feel the need to claim the ball? They are out there to play football. The ref and his assistants are out there to decide who gets the ball when it goes out of play. So no need for a the players to raise their arms to claim a throw. If they really want to decide who should get the throw then…they should become a ref or assistant themselves.  Then they wouldn’t have to claim anything any more, then they could make the correct (hopefully) decision themselves.

The same things happens when a player goes alone on goal. The defenders always raise their arm to claim an offside. That way they try to put pressure on the assistant to give it. And the crowd will believe their defenders of course. Not that blind assistant on the line who doesn’t see the offside.

Now you could say: well all that claiming isn’t that bad you know. It doesn’t harm anyone. Well as just explained: it does harm the credibility of the ref and his assistants. When a decision is wrong, it is wrong and such a thing shouldn’t happen. I am the first to say that wrong calls should be corrected. But this isn’t about wrong calls. Even the good calls are turned in to suspicious calls because of the players claiming it the other way.

We all want clean football. Clean football with no diving, no cheating. I also want clean football with no wrong decisions from the referees. Certainly no cheating from the referee his part.

But if we want to reach such a game each one has to contribute to it. The referees have to be unbiased and correct. And we can argue that this isn’t always the case and I have proposed a few times how we can improve this.

But we also need the players an managers to contribute to such a thing. The players should stop making false claims that discredit the decisions from refs and assistants. It is a form of trying to cheat. And well I don’t really like cheaters on a football field. It would make things easier for the assistant and the ref. Spectators and fans would be more willing to accept the correct decisions from the ref and his assistants. It would improve football in general. And it would improve the image of football.

I once read an article written by someone who writes about rugby games and who was shocked because of all the false claims and cheating that happened on a football field. To be honest I don’t know enough about rugby to know if such things (false claims I mean) happen a lot. Or if it happens in other sports. So if you know anything about that please  inform me.

If other sports don’t have this culture of false claims and cheating I was wondering if football is a game that brings the worst above water in a human character? Or is it just that they become that way? Is it cheating or become cheated? If so, maybe it is just a sad and bad reflections of  our current society and way of living?

34 Replies to “False claims in football: cheating or a must?”

  1. I can see where you’re coming from as an official and the undermining of general credibility, but nobody pays any attention to it, do they? I know I don’t, it’s just something every footballer does, it might be wrong but as I don’t think it has any effect it’s something I can happily tolerate.

  2. Sadly the cheating culture has become endemic in top-level football. The only way to stop it is to have a ref in the TV studio with instant access to all the technology and in 2-way communication with the ref on the field. Then goals, offsides, corners/goal kicks, throws, handballs, dives etc can be correctly determined within a couple of seconds and the game need not be interrupted unnecessarily…of course this would require competent administrators prepared to drag the game out of the 19th century…don’t hold your breath…

  3. You make a sound point. The thing is this form of cheating has been going on for many years. I remember GG’s teams calling for everything.

    I find it much worse when the person with the throw runs 10 yards past the area the ball went out of play. This gives an enormous advantage when you are in or around your own penalty area.

    I think it is also safe to say that, shirt pulling and off the ball pinching and punching is part of a players training.

    Another annoying foul is the obstruction or body check. A player beats his man only to find the opponent jump in front of him but looking at the ball, it makes the Ref think he was playing the ball when he was in fact playing the man.

    Time wasting is another one. Why cant we have an independent time keeper who stops the clock whenever the ball is dead. They do this in Rugby. They could also make it transparent and have a count down clock at each Stadium. This might also stop hundreds of fans leaving early, although I do have my doubts about that.

  4. Ozzie,

    I personally wouldnt mind if the game dragged on an extra hour as long ad the decisions were correct.

    Arsenal have been punished way too often over the Fergie years in my opinion. They have benefited from this and won the League at least half a dozen times because the games are not policed correctly.

  5. Well it doesn’t play any part in my decision making at all. But as said in the article it does play a part in the mindset of the fans.

  6. I agree Walter. We may think that this is harmless. As pointed out earlier by DR, nobody gives the gestures by players any importance because of it. That’s true. But it does have an effect. Honest players lose out.

    And even more, youngsters watching and playing, feel it is ok to cheat while playing the game. A game where it is just friends playing on the field, with nothing at stake. They copy this behaviour. Essentially, we are breeding cheats as future footballers, and perhaps even in other fields of life cos not everyone will make it in football but will carry the same moral values everywhere.

  7. Excellent points well made. I hate cheating with all my heart and in my opinion if a player tries to get a decision that is not his it is definitely cheating. And why do players cheat, because they are not good enough.

    I know that the debate for goal line technology and ‘replays’ is still going on but I would live to see the day where whole games are watched by an independent panel and within the next 2 or 3 days cards handed out to those that have ‘cheated’ in some way. I don’t want the ‘wishy washy’ system they have in now, I want sanctions placed on those players caught out. I would almost guarantee that before a month is out, cheating diving and false claims would have almost disappeared from out game.

  8. The irony (which was probably missed here with that question) being that we (AFC) seemingly nowadays view everything about it through a financial prism before the actual sporting aspect of football.

  9. I think the topic here is cheating and how the form of cheating highlighted in this article seems to be prevalent yet unnoticeable unless some astute thinker brings it to the forefront. let all the comments be specifically themed on this article and not digress by bringing the matters ongoing at arsenal into it. this is a commmon sense approach to commenting and/or putting an argument.

  10. Brilliant that this is on an arsenal website, when did arsenal stop winning stuff? when aw stopped bullying the officals.

  11. @Walter “If other sports don’t have this culture of false claims and cheating I was wondering if football is a game that brings the worst above water in a human character?”

    Is rugby the only other non-cheating sport you had in mind? If so I’m afraid your argument doesn’t stand as you fell for the article written by a rugby apologist. Do you truly believe that playing say basketball, hockey or riding in the Tour de France brings best in a human nature?

  12. @El Tel. You used the word ‘transparent’ this word and ‘transparency’ I am convinced have never been in the vocabulary of the FA or the Football League management and clearly are not in the vocabulary of the Referees ruling body.

    I believe that were the words in their vocabulary much of the cheating that goes on in football would not happen.

  13. Ah yes, cheating.

    Did anyone watching MOTD note Shearer’s comments and demeanour when talking about a dive that led to a penalty and a goal?

    Does anybody know or acknowledge that Arsenal’s players don’t crowd and show aggression to the refs? (Whilst ManU have taught the rest of the league’s player’s how to do it, especially if they detect a ’tilter’ ref. I haven’t seen the game against Villa in full but I read that Mason was allowing tackles from behind on Arsenal’s players. Naturally, the ‘favour’ wasn’t returned).

    Does anybody know that it’s the Arsenal manager who insists that his players do not argue with and crowd around the refs, who in turn simply ignore all manner of “cheating”? Sandro of Sp*rs was a classic case but I’ve seen it at Norwich and QPR, (check out how they stamped on Wilshere, throughout the match.

    There have been nasty, unpunished infringements from most sides we’ve played this season, as always. One problem is that Arsenal’s players invariably get punished for much less. For a real biggy – think Newc-Ars 4-4.
    And look out for Darren Fletcher, who strikes me as one of the games best ‘artists’ in this field.

    @Pat Whelton/Walter:

    I entirely agree with your abhorrence towards cheating, and also – the need for full-match reviews.

    Some time ago I heard that the German league have a system in place to review matches, whereby offenders will certainly be punished. I’ve failed to find out if this is true. Do you have information or links to such a system, please?

    I loved reading about the spirit and attitude experienced during the match where you were a ref’s assistant. Wonderful.

    Here’s Arsene’s pre Everton presser. Note how some of the hacks try to twist and accuse whatever agenda they have, and then check the meedja and see what they say:


    Headline: “Arsene Wenger has confirmed”
    Er… No, no, no. He’s confirmed nowt:


    Cross John, Arsenal fan? What is this?

    (False claims in football).

  14. Oh no Andrei. But I have seen other sports where people report errors from refs and they get corrected in an instant.
    as an example: I have seen snooker players mention to the ref they touched a ball illegal and the ref didn’t see it. That is for me a moment of real sportsmanship.

    On the Tour de France I have been saying for years: the best cheater will win it. I was correct. But I stopped watching cycling since the arrival of Epo. I have known a “Flandrien” from our region who was one of the best. But he wouldn’t fall for using Epo. And he said one season they couldn’t follow me in most races, the next winter I had been offered epo but refused it. I was the only dumb one because the next season he couldn’t follow the rest any more. And then he quit racing. So did I (well following it I mean) and I am from a traditional mad cycling country.

    In a way one could say it is up to each individual to cheat or not to cheat. But I wonder if team pressure plays a part?

  15. Well said Mr Broeckx. There are numerous ways in which players cheat, and lets not beat about the bush, it is cheating.
    One thing that annoys the hell out of me is the little push in the back to stop a player turning after he has laid the ball off, it delays that player from rejoining the attack with momentum, but nothing is ever done about it, although we see it in every game on many occasions.
    Glad to hear you had a good game to officiate over. Thats how its supposed to be all the time.

  16. @Walter I agree there are examples of a good sportmanship but unfortunately it is rather exception than a norm. The higher the stakes the more you see win at any cost mentality.This is true not just in sports but also in almost any aspect of life. It is a process of natural selection that at some point leaves only fierce competitors who have no scruples using any advantage fair or unfair to win.

    Like they say it doesn’t matter how you win. Because you will re-write the history after you win.

  17. Walter,
    You won’t know this, coming from a Kingdom not yet noted for playing Test cricket, but the increase in appeals for LBW and catches at the wicket is becoming an embarrassment IMO.
    Watch, if you can, the current series between India and England and you will see what I mean. The home side are the worst culprits but England are not far behind. It’s a form of cheating when those appealing know full well that the batsman is not out.
    As I sense your total bewilderment as you read my comment, perhaps I should explain that the Laws governing cricket are not, so far, promulgated by Brussels.
    But as my Gran (who cleans at the Emirates) says “Give them time!”.

  18. @nicky

    A good point about cricket, interestingly the home team in the present series did refused the use of technology (Hawkeye). On the spinning wickets there are often many close fielders around the bat waiting for a catch – off the bat, gloves never mind the pads, arm etc and the umpire is put under tremendous pressure.

    Technology would make life a lot easier for the umpires, it would improve the number of correct decisions and reduce the pressure on the umpires, but – its a bit like certain parties dragging their feet over the use of technology in football – it is easier to manipulate the result whenever technology is not involved.

  19. Football is still a sport, except in Arsenal, ManU, ManC, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tots…. These teams are all about dollars and cents.

  20. bjtgooner

    The home team is my country, but I am not a cricket fan. I like the game, but too much commercialisation has ruined it for me, and I don’t particularly like any player in the Indian team (especially now Dravid has retired – and Tendulkar’s on his last legs) I was against the decision of the Indian board to not agree to the DRS. I don’t know what its about (as I said I don’t follow cricket closely anymore) though there is a general perception in India that nations like England, Australia and South Africa have it in for the other teams, especially the Asian ones. Maybe the Indian board (who are corrupt without question) do have some legitimate concerns over the technology. But in general, cricket has implemented technology very well, and I hope the Indian board eventually decides to join in with the newer technolgies as well.

    By the way, the Sydney test Australia v India in 2008 I think it was, absolutely had to be a fixed match. I’m not saying it because India lost (Basically I think of Indian cricketers largely the way most Englishmen feel about their footballers like John Terry) But when you have even the third umpire giving blatantly incorrect decisions, in addition to the on field umpires, you really do have to wonder.

  21. @Shard

    Thanks for that info; I wasn’t trying to suggest the Indian team would cheat any more than any other team; rather that the style of play for any team on relatively slow and turning wickets created the scenario of many close fielders around the bat, with many appeals and much excitement resulting in the umpire being pressurized. Technology must help in such circumstances.

    Over the years I have been very impressed with the skill of many Indian test players and indeed felt some were very honorable in the way they played the game – more so than the players from some other nations.

    Returning to football, with refs still not improving we really need to see technology introduced quickly.

  22. It was cheering to read your account of your match, Walter.
    People can play fair for sure, and actually it is much more enjoyable than cheating. And it reinforces admirable human values rather than the opposite.
    One of the greatest corrupters in top level sport is money.
    I believe one day uncorrupted human values will be the norm, but probably not soon. Sadly.
    In the meantime those who try to play fair are especially admirable, and I believe Arsene Wenger is one of those.

  23. @Shard DRS, I did not know cricket employed the Drag Reduction System? (You gotta be an F1 fan to get it).

  24. @Walter

    I don’t know if a person would want to try this at the EPL level or not. But, it seems to me that in the case of a player being offside _many_ times (10, 20?), the referee would be within his/her rights to talk to the player and tell them that on the next offside, they will be cautioned for persistent infringement. In the matter of players consistently calling for the throw-in (or flagging for offside), I think the referee would still be correct to talk to the player, and tell them at the next occurrence, they will be booked for dissent.

    A referee would have to know that his/her league would stand up for these kinds of bookings, as they are not remotely common.

  25. “It is a process of natural selection that at some point leaves only fierce competitors who have no scruples using any advantage fair or unfair to win.”
    So, is there a gene for cheating, or corrupted/corrupting cultures that know the price of everything and the value of nothing?

  26. Cheating in sport ,or’ professionalism’ ,as some may term it ,is often a personal choice ,unless of course it were blatantly taught and encouraged for some reward or gain , and in both cases its unacceptable and should be weeded out .
    But in sports as in life , where monetary gains,fame and elevation of status are often the main considerations , noble principles like honour , truthfullness ,virtue and fair play have falle by the wayside .
    Exceptions to the rule are ,Arsenal’s offer to replay the FA cup game against Sheffield Utd (which was gleefully accepted!)for Kanu’s ‘unprofessional ‘goal against them ;
    Paolo Di Canio ‘s unforgetable gesture in stopping the game to allow a fallen opponent to be rendered treatment ,rather than score into an open goal ,seen here-
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS1LuSiRrLI .
    Robbie Fowler’s act of informing the ref that it was not a penalty after he was tackled in the box ,also warrants a mentiond.

  27. bjtgooner

    Oh I wasn’t suggesting that you were implying anything about the Indian cricket team. As I already said I have no special feelings for them. They get too much importance in the media here anyway. It was just a general piece of conversation regarding cricket and technology. I agree we need technology in football. But I also meant that technology isn’t perfect. We’ll still need a more transparent system among the refs and administrators. Because like in cricket, technology or not, fixing can occur.

  28. Adam,

    Hahaha.. Yeah. The cricket bodies had gotten tired of players dressing up like women and decided to take measures to reduce the occurrence 🙂

  29. In the present day setting , Di Canio would probably have been booked or sent off for handball and would have also been vilified by his own fans ,manager and club for not putting the ball into the net first as the injury may not have been deemed life threatening !

  30. It is interesting that ultimate frisbee is a team game that they play without refs. It is played very competitively. Some times the games stops for the players to work out violations but the games are remarkable fair and fast moving. But the ethos of the sport is that players will self policy and not cheat!

  31. @Shard, well they will dress up in padded clothing, I once heard an idea for for cricket, take their pads off of them as it will make them hit the f***ing ball.

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