After Everton’s Oumar Niasse threw himself to the ground to earn his side a penalty in their 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park last weekend, he this week became the first Premier League player to be reprimanded for ‘Successful Deception of a Match Official’, which is a euphemistic way of saying ‘cheating’.
Niasse will now be banned for Everton’s next two matches, against Southampton and West Ham respectively. Fair enough, some might say – but what about the implications for the team wronged as a result of Niasse’s blatant simulation? Crystal Palace remain bottom of the Premier League after taking just one point from Saturday’s game, where they could and should have claimed all three.
Niasse is Everton’s top scorer so far this season with five goals in just seven Premier League appearances, despite previously being dubbed one of the worst signing in the club’s history. So now we’ve arrived at a situation where Southampton and West Ham – two of the sides Palace are aiming to leapfrog – could potentially reap the advantage that comes with facing Everton minus their most prolific forward. So in effect, Roy Hodgson and his side could be punished twice for an offence that they were the victims of.
Yes, Everton are in a position of some peril themselves, but the likelihood of the Toffees remaining in their current predicament throughout the season is slight, given the quality of their squad, and the fact that they have key players returning from injury. Now that their short-lived Europa League adventure is over, their league form should eventually improve.
The cruel irony of this of course is that Niasse was a hair’s breadth away from becoming a Palace player on transfer deadline day. The forward was in London waiting for his move to be finalised, with a fee having been agreed between the two clubs, until a refusal to budge on a substantial commission request from the player’s agent reportedly scuppered the deal at the eleventh hour – so it was perhaps inevitable that he would be in the thick of the action in what was a crucial game for both sides.
So if a ban for the individual isn’t the appropriate punishment, then what is?
Rescindment of points earned through cheating has to be the way forward. It may sound harsh, even draconian to some, but once the punishment is felt by the whole club as opposed to just one individual, the deterrent automatically becomes greater – clubs will inevitably begin to self-police.
If there’s one thing we have already learned from this incident, it’s that a player is liable take a chance in games of added importance if he feels it is worth the sacrifice – indeed, managers may still encourage it in times of desperation and worry about any consequences later, but the risk of losing points instantly removes the temptation to cheat.
Everyone at Everton Football Club, including Oumar Niasse, would have been fully aware of the potential punishment that follows an incident of diving, but still felt that the pros outweighed the cons. This alone is proof that the law is not stringent enough.
The ban has done nothing to compensate Palace, and it’ll do little to prevent incidents of diving in future.