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Dwight Gayle and the Inconsistency of ‘Deceiving’ a Match Official

The infrequency and inconsistency of applying this rule makes it problematic, at best

Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Last week, West Bromwich Albion forward Dwight Gayle was charged with ‘successfully deceiving a match official’ and given a two-game ban. This followed an incident in their game with Nottingham Forest, where Gayle threw himself over an outstretched leg and won a penalty from the referee Lee Mason, the Premier League colossus. Jay Rodriguez scored the penalty and it tied the match, leaving a lot of very angry Forest fans on social media to bemoan the two points they had lost to blatant cheating and the incompetence of a supposedly Premier League-standard ref.

It is good to see that is finally being punished. Gayle’s ban was not contested by his club, who knew exactly what he did, and knew that contesting the ban would do nothing but prolong Gayle’s ban until key fixtures versus Leeds United and Sheffield United. Head coach Darren Moore did gave a rather unusual interview to local radio, complaining that the three-person panel who decided on the ban didn’t understand the ‘emotion’ or speed of the moment. Yeah, Darren, the emotion here is ‘desire to cheat,’ and the speed is probably how he got away with it. But the point is, it is good that something is finally happening. Dives that change results will be stamped out.

The trouble is that for us, it is too little, too late. The ‘deceiving a match official’ rule has been in place for two years now, and I will concede to Darren Moore that he made one very good point in his interview. It has not been applied consistently. Just because Forest lost two points, played pretty well and a lot of their fans complained, this incident seemed to pass muster. Is it just the biggest outrages that merit these decisions to be overturned? It certainly seems that way to me. The example I’m thinking of is of course our meeting with Brentford earlier in the season on the 6th of October at Elland Road, and the penalty won by the now notorious diver Ollie Watkins.

It was a pretty even game, as I remember it, and Brentford were certainly worth a point. I wouldn’t have begrudged them it. So, you find yourself wondering why Watkins, a striker Leeds tried to sign from Exeter City not so long ago, felt the need to cheat by diving over Bailey Peacock-Farrell, in a remarkably similar style to Gayle, and deceive the official. Replays showed that Peacock-Farrell made no discernible contact with Watkins’ leg, and Neal Maupay scored the penalty to give Brentford the lead. Then Leeds scored one of their many late equalisers this season through Pontus Jansson to draw the match, and we were all so relieved that we almost forgot about the dive.

It somehow didn’t have the gravitas of that Gayle dive. I know we say ‘EFL don’t care ‘cos its Leeds’ but I’ve spoken to other fans who insist explicitly that this has happened to them too. Its like there needs to be a mass public outcry before this three-person panel can sit and decide on an incident. It can’t be the incidents themselves and how they happen, because they’re all the same. If the panel decide impartially, they should find all these incidents to be deception, because we’re not allowed to blame the official.

The reason I call Watkins ‘notorious’ is that he did it again and got away with it a second time. It was in the FA Cup in front of the BBC cameras, against National League side Barnet, in what’s affectionately known as the Bumble-Bee Derby. What’s worse, his dive resulted in a penalty that took the tie to a replay, and even through Barnet ended up losing it, they still got more money as a result, and that seems to be the whole point of the FA Cup these days. So, once again, everyone forgot about it.

I do wonder if it’s something to do with Brentford themselves. New-blood at this level of the game. Moneyball tactics and buying Danish. Or from Nice. Pokey ground. Maybe not. They are just a small club competing with the old money: Leeds, Derby County, Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa.

I also wonder why they can’t look at the incident now; the Watkins dive and others like it. Who cares that it was last October? If you ban the player now and tell him why he’s banned, it will still stop him doing it. I read a comment from a Forest fan who had a good idea; ban him for the next fixture between the teams. Without pay.

At the very least, it would show some consistency with the decision to ban Gayle now, which you have to admit, is a fairly surprising one for all of us.