Hackett hopes self-policing can end diving

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Keith Hackett, the Premier League referees' chief, believes the game is taking encouraging steps towards cutting out the problem of diving.

There have been calls for referees to get tougher with guilty players but it is a difficult offence to police and Hackett is pleased other sectors of the game have shown willingness to clamp down.

He said: "I think there have been positive things said in recent weeks by the Professional Footballers' Association and League Managers' Association. We have also had former players and existing players saying they don't like it.

"We are never going to eradicate it 100 per cent but we are focusing on it and we can to some extent self-police," Hackett added. "The media have picked up on this recently but we have been focusing on it for a number of months. The number of cautions for simulation [diving] this season has increased threefold.

Graham Poll, the Premiership referee, has highlighted the pressures officials face in trying to come down harder on divers or players who surround officials after controversial decisions. He admits booking someone for diving is difficult because it effectively means the player is being labelled a cheat.

Poll also claims a "zero-tolerance" policy would be difficult to adopt because any clampdown - with increased showing of yellow or red cards - could lead to accusations of over-zealousness or spoiling the game.

Poll said: "We need some understanding about how difficult it is to stop. The cure is with the players, the coaches, the clubs. We are not sitting here saying people aren't diving. They are and we'd like it to stop.

"In a perfect world, every time a player goes over, it would be because he's slipped or has been fouled. It would make our lives easier. If we went out and went zero tolerance, bang... we suspect he's dived: yellow card. Public sympathy would disappear.

"Trust me, the pendulum would swing," he added. "Referees have picked things up to clamp down on before that would safeguard players. By September, there's a crisis - 'Referees are rubbish, they're spoiling the game'."

Hackett has also responded with disappointment to claims by the former referee Matt Messias that he allowed players to influence how he refereed a game. Messias, who decided to retire from the game last month, was making the point that he believes some players now consider themselves above the laws of the game.

Hackett refused to condone the actions of Messias, who claimed he was pressured not to make bookings during a Championship game between Wolves and Millwall.

He said: "The referee's brief is to control the game. If the laws of the game are not applied he will suffer as the assessor will pick up on this. If he [Messias] is saying he abdicated his responsibility in this article, maybe that is why he retired from football. I'm not disbelieving what he has said but sometimes when you are away from the game things can get exaggerated."