Acceptable Cheating v Unacceptable Behaviour.

One of the hotter topics in cricket over the last fifty years or so has been whether a player should walk when he knows he is out, or whether he should wait for the umpire to give him out. However minimal the contact, however faint the edge, a batsman always knows when he has hit the ball.

The professional game used to be divided into “walkers” or “non-walkers” and it was generally accepted that to walk when you knew you were out, even if you suspected that the umpire would have given you the benefit of the doubt, was the highest form of sportsmanship, and showed a high degree of moral rectitude. Because cricket was not only old-fashioned, but also had claims as the quintessentially English game, there was an expectation that an amateur or a gentleman would walk, because that was the “right” thing to do, but that a professional would probably wait for the umpires decision. In short, you could trust a proper chap to do the right thing, whereas someone from the lower classes could not be relied upon to have any moral compass at all.

Except it was seldom quite as simple as that, for I knew a few players who had wonderful reputations and were held to be absolute paragons who would cynically trade on that reputation.  To establish a reputation as someone who would always give yourself out, but to then play on that to hoodwink the official at a critical moment is a pretty advanced form of cheating, but I saw it happen enough times to make me feel that the practice of “walking” should be removed from the game, and that all decisions should be left to the umpire.

If morality could be so easily manipulated, I came to believe that all moral judgements should be removed from sport. I have no time at all for those who claim the moral high-ground by dint of birth, status and schooling only to dissemble and gain advantage by unfair means. The law is the law, and better to stick to the letter rather than the spirit, if those that genuinely try to be honest are disadvantaged by those who don’t.  That is why I am so in favour of technology as it leads to better decision-making, and better decision lead to fairer results.

There is another article to be written about the whole issue of drugs and doping, and I have at times often wondered whether it would be better to just allow a total free for all, but that is for another day. For now though it is enough to say that sportsmen will always try to get away with what they can.

Rugby players learn quickly to play the referee, to work out what transgressions they can get away with, what laws a particular referee will not seek to enforce. So do footballers, and we know from watching The Arsenal how quickly rotational fouling is employed once a side senses they can get away with it. These are not on-the-field snap decisions:  coaches spend plenty of time briefing players on who to foul, where best to stray offside, how off-the-ball runs may be most effectively and invisibly blocked.

I don’t have advanced knowledge of all sports, but would bet my life that all sports have their own nefarious practices: as players we quickly learn the dark arts if we wish to survive, for few things are as competitive as professional sport, and without carefully drawn-up laws and efficient refereeing games soon become a jungle. And that jungle becomes red in tooth and claw if you rely on the players to interpret the laws equally fairly.

Which I suppose brings me quite neatly to that bite, which has caused predictable outrage, and an outpouring of moral relativism not often seen in such magnitude beyond A-level philosophy essays.

It seems to me that if you support Liverpool FC or Uruguay it is perfectly appropriate to claim that there are plenty worse things than a not altogether friendly nip that go unpunished: career-ending tackles and casually swung elbows have been paraded with enthusiasm as justifications for why biting an opponent is not that bad. Equally, if you do not support Liverpool or Uruguay, and especially if you feel that as an English-speaking white man you are the sole guardian of moral rectitude in a dangerously immoral and worryingly foreign world then the bite is seen as a mortal sin and one that can only be adequately punished by eternal banishment.  And I am not certain how those two positions can ever be properly reconciled, because both carry so much baggage with them that it is perhaps just best to acknowledge that sometimes there is no absolute right and wrong

What does interest me rather more is the way that just as most societies have their own set of taboos, so too do most sports and I find it fascinating to see what is and what is not considered to be acceptable. Biting, for example, is not especially frowned on in Rugby Football, and while it is probably best not to know everything that goes on in the scrum, I have seen enough nibbled ears to realise that cannibalism is alive and well in the Home Counties. But should a player stick out a foot to trip up a flying three-quarter then all hell breaks loose in the rugby world. It is just not done, and anyone that maintains such behaviour is soon hounded out.

Likewise in cricket: a bowler may legitimately seek to kill a batsman by bowling short-pitched bouncers , and this is seen as an acceptable and admired part of the game; should the same bowler seek to do so by not pitching the ball at all but aiming it full toss at the head then that is strictly off-limits.

A boxer may rain un-defended blows on his opponent’s head and reduce him to a vegetative state and he will be considered a hero: throw a punch below the belt and he’ll soon be cast as pantomime villain.

Footballers lie and cheat on a regular basis: they claim throw-ins and corners, they dive and simulate injury and this is not only all fine but actively encouraged.  They may seek to break their opponent’s leg, and that is OK too, but they must not punch, gouge or bite, for that is not OK.

Taboo trumps relativism, and societies (and the football society is no different) police those taboos strictly and seriously. However ridiculous and logic defying it might be, anyone that seeks to defend the breaking of a taboo will be seen to be so far at odds with the values of that society that all their opinions will, by extension, be deemed risible.

The point about Louis Suarez is not that what he did was particularly bad, but rather that he was unable to stop himself doing something he knew was considered wrong by the rest of his tribe: that he immediately sought to divert attention from his behaviour by feigning injury was proof enough to me that he realised he had crossed an invisible but all-important line.



Today’s post was given to us by  @foreverhaedy (Ex professional cricketer) 

104 comments on “Acceptable Cheating v Unacceptable Behaviour.

  1. I think Suarez next contract will be a very interesting read.

    i dont think the spannish will give a shit really …they will just use it to force liverpool to sell for less…


  2. Good game so far between Ghana and Portugal…


  3. good point NB,

    Leaving teeth marks in someone would usually* be a Section 47 offence though if the biting sufficiently serious it could be classed as grievous bodily harm and covered by Sections 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act.

    Its probably a question of just how sharp Suarez’s teeth are. Section 20 can lead to imprisonment for up to five years, Section 18 the tariff is up to life imprisonment.

    In the case of GBH, whether section 18 or the less serious Section 20, the option of a fine or community penalty is not open to the Judge even if it is a first time offence. Also in the case of GBH it is usual bail is refused due to the violent nature of the offence.

    Just don’t bite anyone H


  4. anicol


    you talk about unprovoked violent acts ….. i set the condition of self defence in the scenario that was presented of a night/bar fight by george….but for some reason its ignored and even worse….. equated with a reaction in a football pitch..between two kids fighting for space…..


  5. Law is such a wonderful thing to study…. so many different nuances and precedents. I love it. Hunter, you would be convicted of GBH in a court of law and probably serve at least 3 years in prison.


  6. boye doing his best to score a second own goal!


  7. How you present your evidence in Court is a matter for you H and I think it is right that you would wish to bring to M’Luds or M’Ladys attention that you were provoked. A Judge would, subject to them accepting your evidence, take it into account in sentencing.

    I suspect however that even the most generous of Judges would find it difficult to take on board the mitigation that “He wound me up so I had to bite him – I had no choice ” or words to that effect.


  8. Hunter if they don’t insert clausal as response to recent events it will pendle between grave neglect of duty and gross incompetence.


  9. Ozil with a sweet cross that leads to Muller’s goal.
    Podolski off so only two Arsenal players left in this game.


  10. Anicoll, I read the Guardian one too, but this one was a bit more interesting, I thought. More of the texture of how difficult it was to find info because all of Uruguay wants to protect Suarez and reinforces this persecution complex. I thought the idea that he fights desperately because he seems to feel that everything could be taken away rings true. It isn’t rational but it also is a way of motivating that can go over the line if those feelings of desperation can’t be controlled. Who knows what the story is, but this seemed like a potentially insightful perspective.


  11. Wasn’t sure at first but the cross led to the header which was from PM, saved and Muller scored the follow up. Good game for the Arsenal players.


  12. Dire stuff. US looked like it wanted to show Honduras how to play physically. They scrap by. Poor Ghana! Self-destruction really. They were on par and could/should have defeated Germany, were better than the US and better than Portugal but faced them with a reduced squad and made two absolute blunders that were cruelly punished.


  13. Did Poldi have a good game? He was subbed off pretty early, I felt. Ozil certainly was a threat, an orchestrator the whole time. Merts solid, stood tall. But a drab game other than the tension which was all for nought with Portugal winning by narrow margin.


  14. Any truth to the rumours that footballers across Europe are about to get their own bite mark tattos for next season?


  15. I feel sorry for Suarez. He clearly has a problem dealing rationally, or in a more appropriate way to frustration and anger. Maybe he has been let down by his clubs? Who because he was so talented, did not support him adequately with the appropriate mental health intervention.

    Liverpool’s misguided “support” after the Evra incident smacked of a thinly disguised PR stunt, while they did sod all after the incident with the chav player. Seeing as it had already happened in Holland, LFC are pretty culpable IMO.

    It is similar to whan Collymore outed himself to widespread derision, as having depression. His own “manager” John gregory even mocked him.

    Pretty damning all round.


  16. I agree complete Dex. I don’t like him but I do feel sad for him. If Suarez wanted to be respected and gain dignity for his player of the year winning season and his singular destruction of England, now he is a ludicrous figure of fun. And he’s done it to himself now, given the media and popular culture all the material to laugh at his expense. He may ultimately be known the world over for his bizarre behaviour more than his football accomplishments by the end of his career. If he doesn’t find a way to avoid such antics, that’s how he will be known.


  17. “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” It’s just sad, that’s all.


  18. Suarez is banned “from all football activity” for 4 months.
    Assuming the ban starts today them he can’t play or even professionally train until 26th October.
    This will make it difficult for Liverpool to sell him, and they are now stuck with someone who will be treated as a pariah by the media.
    Certainly liverpools hopes of getting £80m plus for him are now diminished.
    Arsenal won’t bid, will Barca or Real Madrid?


  19. LSG;

    I don’t think he will be too badly done to in Spain, or his homeland for that matter.

    And I don’t think The uruguay national team are doing anything to help him either. They are either making excuses, or saying nothing at all has even happened. Probably because their attitudes to mental health issues is to pretend it doesnt exist. and its all a smear campaign, yadda yadda…


  20. LSG
    Podolski playing in his usual left hand side role for Germany subbed off because they changed things round to play Klose. Plodders hasn’t been a starter for Germany for a while now, so a start in the WC has to be a bonus.

    A shame for the player that his earlier injury robbed him of the chance of a trial at CF (instead of Klose) for Germany in the Autumn when they did experiment with other options. I guess that he will get some more minutes before the end.


  21. I hope so. I love Poldi’s attitude and his crushing left foot strikes!


  22. What a bobbins game. Some lovely touches by Ozil though, which, to be fair, is all I cared about anyway.

    You may be right Dexter. Sometimes good to step back and show a little humanity, especially when everyone and his aunt is queuing up to join in a witch hunt..

    Whilst it’s nigh on impossible to seek to defend Suarez’ actions and then apply the victim spin to it (just as Liverpool once tried and failed, embarrassingly, to do), and I’d stop short of saying I feel any pity for his plight, I do find all the mock moral outrage and indignation, and the subsequent rush to vilify him by football’s self-appointed (not so) great and good utterly predictable and dispiriting.


  23. What a superb article Foreverheady and from an ex-pro makes all the valuable a read, thanks…..

    Biting is illegal? I bit my wife last night…..


  24. Wright Thompson’s keyboard will be alive tonight as he gets that book written ! V good


  25. apropos.

    thanks for your wonderful comment. i agree with you.

    just a curious though though.

    isnt swearing at unknown strangers in public a violation of law too?

    why are we comparing acts on a football pitch with acts outside? is it fair to do that? why dont we bring up sections for all sorts of non sense happening on a football pitch?

    football is football..on a football pitch football etiquette and rules should apply and they should be consistent.

    i am crossing a fine line here, please lets discuss this further.


  26. Got to the post late. Brilliant, simply brilliant.


  27. Yahya al-Jazaa’ir!!!


  28. Algeria through for the first time ever. Germany-Austria collusion for a draw kept them out in 1982, I believe. 2 African teams in 16 knockout round–should have been 3. Sorry for Ghana.


  29. Brilliant piece there FH? Kind of abrupt ending which I can greatly empathize. Am fully on board that there is the usual faux outrage and hypocrisy by the usual suspects but as FH clearly explained every sport has its taboos. Biting an opponent because he is physically frustrating is not acceptable. Last summer I was willing to give Suarez the benefit of the doubt but am now happy that Liverpool are now paying for their deceit. Unfortunately I think all vested interests in this drama have very little concern about helping Suarez overcome his demons but simply want to proclaim their own moral superiority while covertly seeking to leverage some footballing advantage.


  30. Sorry it ended a bit abruptly Shotta but I wanted to get it out there before the decision. I’ll think about a part 2.


  31. It is quiet ………….too quiet !


  32. I dont like it…. it is too quiet…. there be trouble a brewin, you makr my words…


  33. lol ani…chielini is a disgrace….cant imagine maldini baresi or any of the past italians legends who have worn that shirt being such crybabies…..

    did you see wenger and his beach foot-volley tricks..?..legend.


  34. Superb article, and I’ve enjoyed the comments. Thanks.


  35. ars23

    I think I know what you are getting at. And it’s an interesting discussion. But in this case I think it’s against the law of the game to use offensive, abusive or insulting language. But certainly there are other sports sanctioned by governments that involve actions that are not allowed in public sphere.


  36. I think it’s against the law of the game to use offensive, abusive or insulting language.

    ha! in that case rooney should be seeing red every week the way he talks at refs…..compare and contrast with vieira who got how many reds again for talking back to referees.


  37. we can do ti …although it involves so many traps …but it has to be done nice and carefully ..i start


    a) we have elbows that are un-intentional like when the player needs to jump and gain altitude and will naturally use his arms in pseudo superman move that could accidentally catch some nearby…. no malice

    b) we have elbows from the defender (centreback) on the back/waist of the striker playing as targetman/pivot like say terry – sanchez. this is made with specific intention to keep striker in check and to deny him balance …… no malice ..the definition of football etiquete but a cuntish and annoying thing to do nonetheless

    c) we have elbows from the player trying to control ball coming from above who has noted defender coming to challenge him and throws elbow out to stop player from getting close…this elbow might land on face, neck ribs……malice

    d) we have elbows in corners/free kicks in the area against players fighting for position as well as in the air, usually end up in massive feuds because the elbow usually lands in faces …malice

    e) player running and defender following closely and in the ienvitable shoulder shulder barge one of them knocks the other out with kung fu elbow in the stomach and or face…malice


    whose nnext ..i did my essay…


  38. I agree with Shotta about the lack of interest in actually helping Suarez overcome this problem. For all the crying by Liverpool club and fans, as we shall see during the appeal process, what did Liverpool do to insist that Suarez face up to reality and learn to deal with his lack of control? What help did they offer? I’ve never heard of any. All I heard was the same kind of “support” that has allowed him to fabricate a sense of aggrieved persecution rather than of responsibility for his actions.

    So I believe the club consequences of this ban are actually relevant. Reap what you sow. He will have missed 20% of Liverpool games due to suspension without a red card or injury–all because of his inability to control himself in moments of great tension. This is essentially what I estimated would be the cost of bringing him to Arsenal–he would get himself banned for enough games that it would affect the club in the league and Europe. I like to think that Arsenal would have made a genuine effort to make sure he got some therapy/counseling and would have protected itself contractually, but it is hard to know. I’m glad we didn’t find out what it would be like to deal with the aftermath of Suarez’s latest transgression.


  39. if its a problem that he needs help for……what good does the punishment do? other than satisfy the cannibals of the gutter press ?

    even chielini has called it excessive….(lol what a troll)….but most of the outrage comes from the media here…..its farcical.

    shall we ask edu and aaron if they prefer a bite mark to 7 mos in hospital not knowing if they will be able to play again?

    i think our fans should know better, what with experiencing the cannibalism of the media on our manager players and club

    free luis…boycott the wc….fuck fifa ..and the uk media……

    even the americans -will ferrell- saw the humour of it…who arent THAT familiar with football and football etiquette but here no…….execution, hang him , life ban.disgrace his name reputation career and family …for what? for kicking them out the tournament?

    if rooney had scored two against uru to get england through and bit godin and got away with it they woudl be building a statue for him……


  40. He still has to be responsible for his actions. If Liverpool had acted better after the Ivanovic bite, this one might have been avoided. Also the player has to be convinced it isn’t just a media fueled conspiracy against him but a genuine problem. As long as he is enabled by Uruguayan officials and society and Liverpool officials and supporters, he isn’t going to realize unless he sees his career could be dramatically affected.

    I do think the hysteria goes too far and there is prurient glee in the bizarreness of the situation, it seems. Plus, just a few days earlier he basically said his two goals were really enjoyable because of how much he feels he has been hurt by the English media. Then he goes out and provides them with the perfect incident to attack him with. It is a perfect dynamic to exaggerate the story.


  41. As far as the Americans seeing the humour of it–they aren’t laughing WITH Suarez, they are laughing at him and the situation, at the crazy foreigners and their crazy game of football. Their image of football is Suarez biting, boring 0-0 games, and supporter thuggery/violence and riots. I remember listening to sports radio in the 90’s, characters like Jim Rome, who regarded “soccer” as an alien enemy incompatible with virtuous American culture and sport. It fit into the cartoon some in the American sports culture mainstream and establishment have created about “soccer”; this it is starting to break down as it is becoming more and more popular to watch, but it is a reflex and a discourse still readily available.

    But I wouldn’t be entirely convinced by the huge interest in the WC right now in the US. Some of this will turn into abiding interest in futbol. However, much if not most of this is about the US national team, the love of winning, and patriotic fervor that will not translate into following club futbol. It is like the Olympics, I think.


  42. If Luisito does have a chronic personality disorder then I am sympathetic and would encourage him to undergo treatment as swiftly as possible. Whether it is in his best interests, or potential opponents, to continue to play football while he undergoes the treatment must be a matter for the medical experts carrying out the therapy.

    A slight difficulty I envisage however is that in order to undergo meaningful and hopefully successful treatment Luis would have to actually recognise he has a mental health problem(s).

    And there my well meaning therapeutic prognosis crashes and burns.


  43. Has anyone chaecked to see if there was a full moon each time Lupe Suarez needed to take a chunk out of his opponents?



  44. Suarez doesn’t have a problem. He’s just a spoiled shit who has never been held accountable for his actions.


  45. I tend to agree with Gains at 7:15 pm. All the investigative articles I have read indicates the Uruguayans have wrapped him in a cocoon of self-entitlement as soon as they recognized his prodigious talent. All his past transgressions have been whitewashed by his former coaches and Football Federation. Even the national media is complicit. How else in the face of clear video evidence we read nonsense that picture have been photo-shopped.
    It is easy to descend into national paranoia. For years many Jamaicans, including yours truly, believed Ben Johnson was framed when he was found guilty of drug-taking after that famous victory over Carl Lewis in the 1988 Olympics. It won’t last long though. At some point reality will hit Uruguayans flush in the face.


  46. I’m looking at Luisito on his balcony with his two toddlers

    Bloke with a temper like that, hair trigger, violent

    Child protection issues perhaps ?

    I wonder if he and Mrs Suarez will get a visit on his return to Merseyside ?


  47. It would be a first on Merseyside I suppose – someone from the real world assessing his behaviour

    Luisito was not even interviewed about his little bit of cultural ‘confusion’ with Evra by Merseyside Police

    A little bit different from John Terry’s experience with London’s finest


  48. “Now inside me there’s no feelings of joy, revenge or anger against Suárez for an incident that happened on the pitch and that’s done. There only remain the anger and the disappointment about the match,” said Chiellini on his personal website. “At the moment my only thought is for Luis and his family, because they will face a very difficult period.

    “I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive. I sincerely hope that he will be allowed, at least, to stay close to his team-mates during the games because such a ban is really alienating for a player.”

    His words have more finesse then his challenges and rakes. But fair play Chiellini didn’t have to put out the above. I agree with him. A longer ban then Leonardo or Tassotti? Predictable, but like the player above I’m not convinced. I thought that Arseblog’s piece today shared many sentiments with FH’s article.


  49. Can’t think what you could be suggesting Andy. Preferential treatment for LFC and its players? Surely not. And you are dead right about the rugby bans, but I maintain that within the game biting is not seen as totally taboo.


  50. Shotta

    It’s interesting you mentioning Ben Johnson. He wasn’t so much framed, more the patsy! Carl lewis and a few other athletes were as guilty of drug cheating as the canadian.

    But an Olympics in America, who is going to be the one caught?


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