Should Mark Clattenburg Have Sent Luis Suarez Off for Diving?

Liverpool are an excellent team: fun to watch, exciting, hard working.

The Liverpool v. Manchester City game was incredibly fun for a neutral like myself. Not only were the stakes high, but the emotions – with the tribute to the Hillsborough disaster – were even higher. Both teams gave it everything they had (in American parlance).

There was only one big problem:

Luis Suarez

Every time he threw himself to the ground when a defender was anywhere near him, I cringed. Every time he slapped the pitch and screamed out loud like a petulant five-year-old, I wanted to leave the room.

By the end of the game, I actually didn’t much care about it anymore. I just wanted it to be over so I didn’t have to watch Suarez cheat his way through, when he really is so talented that he doesn’t have to cheat.

Which brings us to referee Mark Clattenburg.

Clattenburg had an outstanding game, and every time I watch him I’m more and more convinced he’s one of the best referees not only in England but in Europe.

Very few Champions League-level referees could have handled things with the calmness and tact that he did. Few referees have the confidence to play the advantage as deftly as he does, with an almost uncanny intuition.

But I was absolutely shocked that he did not send Suarez off for diving.

Suarez already had one yellow when he threw himself across the penalty area, screaming so loudly you could hear it over the din of the Kop, grasping his leg like his tibia had snapped, and adding a couple of extra rolls for good measure.

Problem is, Martin Demichelis didn’t touch him:

And Clattenburg knew it.

He did not give the penalty Suarez was trying to cheat his way to. So, that was good. But if it’s not a penalty, isn’t it simulation? Clattenburg saw it and he knew it was a dive. But he kept that second yellow in his pocket.

For a man who played the advantage brilliantly all day, you have to wonder if he was doing the same again, knowing a match without Suarez for most of it wouldn’t be as exciting. And it wouldn’t be considered fair if Liverpool lost.

And I ask:

So what?

The Laws of the Game state that simulation occurs when:

A player attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled.


It’s pretty clear that that’s what Suarez did, and a yellow card would be completely reasonable in this case. Clattenburg’s use of his discretion might be understandable, given the magnitude of the match. And I’ve seen several situations this year where similar clear instances of simulation went unpunished when penalty kicks were not given. And maybe that would be okay.

But last season the referees decided they were going to “crack down on diving”, which roughly translated to:

Card Gareth Bale.

While Bale did go down easily at times (sometimes due to his fear over his ankles and sometimes to his natural tendencies) he was carded so many times that year that it started to feel like a bad joke. It culminated in Bale reaching out to FA, who sent Andre Marriner to have a long talk with him about ways to avoid simulation.

Then Marriner promptly booked him for diving on what was a very clear, ugly, blatant foul.

It became so ludicrous that whenever one of my friends or I (usually me) tripped on San Francisco’s “well-maintained sidewalks”, one of the others would intone:

“Yellow card: Gareth Bale.”


Bale is in Spain, in no small part due to his feeling that a.) he was not being protected from vicious challenges and b.) he would never be able to escape his reputation as a ‘diver’ amongst the referees.

Suarez is ruining matches for neutrals with his antics.

And Clattenburg and his compatriots are keeping their cards in their pockets.


  • I think BPL referees in general don’t like reaching for that second yellow unless it’s for a nasty tackle or something along those lines. A lot of people (viewers/fans) seem to think that in order to get a *second* yellow – since it is, for all intents and purposes, a red card – the player has to commit a red-card offense, or at least an “orange” one – something that could have gotten the player sent off in its own right. So referees would rather err on the side of keeping everyone on the field, especially since the ensuing suspension can’t be appealed (right? Although in Mexico you can appeal both double yellow and straight red suspensions).


    • No, a sending off for a double yellow can’t be appealed through the Wrongful Claims Dismissal process. But in my mind, if a referee would normally have given a yellow card, he should give it, regardless of whether he’s on a yellow. That’s the whole point of the deterrent of a second yellow – or else guys like Suarez have carte blanche. I’ve actually seen refs reach for their pocket, and then drop their hand when they remember the guy’s already been booked (though that isn’t what Clatts did here).


      • No, I agree with you. If it’s a yellow, it’s a yellow, regardless if the player already has one or not. But a lot of fans don’t view it that way, and I think that has a negative influence on the referees, who are often reluctant to hand out the 2nd yellow even when warranted.


        • Truth is, if Clatts had sent off Suarez that early in the game, while he’d be RIGHT, all we’d hear is how full of himself is, and how we wants the spotlight, and how he ruined the game. No win.


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