NOBODY wants to be remembered as a cheat.
Sporting fraud is a tricky subject, a minefield for the FA after they voted in favour of retrospective action for diving yesterday.
Players can live with a reputation for going down too easily, leaving a lazy leg out, inviting a reckless challenge or avoiding a leg-cruncher.
Keep up to date with ALL the football news, gossip, transfers and goals on our page plus fixtures, results and live match commentary
Being labelled a cheat is very different.
Take Swansea head coach Paul Clement, who was spitting after Marcus Rashford won a penalty for Manchester United in their 1-1 draw on April 30.
When Clement was pressed about goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski’s minimal contact with Rashford, he could not bring himself to go through with it.
Instead, the aggrieved coach said: “No, I’m not saying ‘cheat’. I’m saying deceived. It’s the word I’ve chosen. I would use cheat another time.”
Even in the most volatile, pressurised situations, with Swans fighting a relegation battle, Clement still held back from using the ‘c’ word.
The accusation a player, especially a young English one making his way in the sport, is a cheat would have far-reaching consequences.
Clement knew it could be a step too far, and played safe.
The FA’s burden of proof is high, with a unanimous verdict required from the panel of three experts.
Based on Clement’s reluctance to call Rashford a cheat, it would have been very difficult for the panel to punish the United striker retrospectively.
Rashford’s fall came on the same weekend Manchester City winger Leroy Sane and Spurs striker Harry Kane strayed into diving territory.
Sane won a penalty at Middlesbrough when he left out a trailing leg for Martin de Roon.
And Kane lured Arsenal defender Gabriel into a foul which resulted in another spot-kick during the North London derby.
Social media erupted, but these calls will have a very different feel to them when the FA effectively calls a player a cheat.
Even on Tuesday, when Sane was booked following a fall during City’s 3-1 win over West Brom, the German accepted the caution without batting an eyelid.
Next season an incident like that will be topped up with a two-game ban. That is the price the governing body are prepared to pay for progress, to be seen to clean up the game after another moral outrage over diving.
No matter how successful the system has been in Scotland, where it was introduced at the start of the season, this will not be easy to police.
There will be heightened attention because United boss Jose Mourinho and the like will claim it is “obvious” or “natural” for the panel to act if they believe they have been cheated.
The FA plan to release guidelines for the players before the start of next season, but they never take that into account when the dark arts are at work.
Players will still go down easily in search of a cheap free-kick or a penalty that could change the outcome of a match.
From now on, they really will be remembered as cheats.
WEST HAM fear that naming rights for the London Stadium will barely top £4million when a sponsor finally steps forward.
The London Legacy Development Corporation’s botched handling of negotiations with Vodafone led to the communications giant cutting them off earlier this week.
It means they are now searching for another corporate backer to stump up the pie-in-the-sky figure of £20m to be associated with West Ham and their new stadium.
The Hammers are due a 40 per cent share of anything over £4m.
But the board fear the value of the deal is diminishing five years after the Olympics were held in London. Tesco, Indian firm Mahindra Group and now Vodafone have all pulled out of talks because of the scale of the investment.
The Hammers board may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But anyone with a passing knowledge of their ruthless edge knows that a deal would have been in place long before they moved to Stratford last summer.
THE saddest aspect about Wayne Rooney blowing £500,000 inside 90 minutes at a Manchester casino is that he was sitting all alone.
Rooney, who is struggling to come to terms with the end of his Manchester United and England career, needs friends around him now more than ever.
LEV YASHIN was the last goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or way back in 1963.
Since then, the award for the world’s best player has been dominated by forwards — Cruyff, Rummenigge, Platini, Messi, Ronaldo — among them.
When the voting takes place for this year’s winner, Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon should be at the very top of the list.
Buffon, 39, won the Coppa Italia on Wednesday night in Juve’s 2-0 victory over Lazio and will lift a sixth straight Scudetto if they beat struggling Crotone on Sunday.
With a potential treble to come in the Champions League final against Real Madrid next month, it is shaping up to be Buffon’s year.
THE NAME’S BOND
EVIN BOND gets a needless battering at times because he happens to be one of Harry Redknapp’s allies and close friends.
Bond, in talks to become Redknapp’s assistant at Birmingham, is also an astute observer of the game with a rare ability to bring a measured voice to the dressing-room chaos on matchdays.
SPARKS MAY FLY
MARK HUGHES has ambitious plans to give Stoke an image makeover in the summer, but he must do it on the cheap.
Boss Sparky, who is coming under pressure from Potters’ fans, will be given just £8million to spend in the transfer market by the board.
Wilfried Bony, his marquee signing on loan from Manchester City, has disappeared without trace. And Marko Arnautovic is ready to leave if the right offer comes in.