Leeds United: FA have blown a chance to hit divers - Matteo

Dominic Matteo believes the Football Association has passed up a prime opportunity to confront the issue of diving by failing to call Theo Walcott to account for his actions in last weekend's FA Cup tie between Leeds United and Arsenal.

Matteo said the FA had declined to "take a stand" against simulation after deciding that Walcott would face no action over his self-confessed dive during Saturday's 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium.

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The England international drew attention to his own guilt by admitting publicly that he had attempted to coax referee Phil Dowd into awarding a spot-kick while United defended a 1-0 lead in the closing stages of a dramatic third-round match in London.

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The FA studied Walcott's comments but ruled that his remarks in a post-match interview were not worthy of a disciplinary charge, despite the flying winger apologising to his manager, Arsenal Wenger, and Leeds United boss Simon Grayson.

A FIFA directive prevented the governing body from retrospectively punishing the dive itself, and the England international has escaped without sanction for an act which he admitted he was "not happy" about.

The incident surrounding Walcott focused attention on the problem of simulation in the English game - a long-standing and contentious topic of debate - and the subject came to light again on Sunday afternoon following a penalty won by Dimitar Berbatov in Manchester United's FA Cup victory over Liverpool.

Former Leeds captain Matteo told the YEP: "A player admitting to diving is as good an opportunity as the FA will ever get to do something about it.

"It's a chance to say 'right, we're going to make a point, take a stand and come down hard.'

"Walcott couldn't have had any complaints about that.

"He said himself that he was in the wrong – that he basically cheated to try and win a penalty. You won't get a better time to show that the issue is as much of a concern as everyone says it is.

"They've decided not to punish him and I'm not sure what sort of message that sends out.

"By letting the situation go, it's almost as if we're accepting that it's part of the game.

"To be fair to Walcott, he's held his hands up and done something that very few other players would do, and maybe that counted in his favour.

"But criticism always blows over after a few days and players can live with that. A ban or some sort of proper punishment would be a different thing altogether."

The FA looked into Walcott's post-match remarks and concluded that his interview in its full context did not break any of the governing body's rules regarding the conduct of players.

Speaking to the BBC immediately after Saturday's game, the 20-year-old England international said: "I just want to apologise to the managers because I actually dived trying to win the penalty.

"I said to one of their (Leeds United's) players afterwards 'would you have done it in the last few minutes?' and he said 'I probably would have done'.

"It's one of those things and I'm not the sort of player to do it, but I own up to that and apologise for that.

"It's one of those things I don't like to see in our game, but I've heard people say that if you feel a slight touch then you should go down.

"It can work both ways, but I'm not happy that I did it.

"I had a bit of a laugh with the referee saying 'that's the first dive I've ever done, can you tell?' That's football."

The incident was seen by Dowd, who at first awarded a penalty before changing his mind when one of his assistants flagged for offside.

FIFA rules prevent the FA from reviewing incidents which a referee has witnessed, or offences that would not have warranted a red card.

Walcott eventually won a fair penalty in the 90th minute of the tie when his arm was pulled inside United's box by left-back Ben Parker.

Grayson accepted that call, saying he would have been "disappointed if we'd not got that at the other end of the field".

The clubs will replay their tie at Elland Road a week today, with a home game against League One Huddersfield Town at stake in the fourth round.

Matteo said: "Walcott's not your typical footballer and I wasn't

surprised to see him of all people owning up.

"He comes from a tight family and a good background, and he's a level-headed lad. Diving isn't really in his nature.

"You can tell he regretted it by the fact he came out and apologised. Most players wouldn't have bothered.

"Personally, I don't think you'll ever stamp out diving because too much of it goes on.

"It's almost accepted now that if you get touched, it's fair enough to go down.

"But if you're going to have a proper go at tackling it then these are the examples you have to punish.

"Walcott's not a serial offender but he'd have learned his lesson if the FA hit him with a ban. Nothing else is going to work."

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